Toyota is betting that some drivers in America would still fancy a manual stick shift. In February 2022, with the help of some patent filings, it was discovered that Toyota was set to launch a software system that would simulate the manual act of shifting gears. It is now set to introduce the system in Lexus electrified vehicles.
It describes a technology that relies largely on software to make drivers feel like they're shifting a manual transmission; the system includes a "pseudo-clutch pedal" and a "pseudo-shifter," among other components. In short, the software is programmed to control the electric motor's torque output in a way that mimics driving a combustion engine. First is short, second is longer, third is as well, and so on. According to Toyota, the computer analyzes data like the car's speed and the accelerator pedal's opening angle to make the experience more realistic.
The system uses a physical gear shift, tachometer, and third pedal. Of course an EV wouldn't have a gearbox with actual gears and synchros, either. Everything is simulated via software.
Takashi Watanabe, chief engineer of Lexus Electrified, described it as a "simulated drive force map with pedal and shift positions to reproduce the feeling of a manual transmission."
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"This new project all started with some Lexus engineers reflecting on what they liked about traditional [internal combustion] vehicles and what they had to miss out on with electric cars," said Watanabe. "[The] manual transmission was one thing they enjoyed in particular."
Watanabe also revealed this technology while standing before the Lexus Electrified Sport concept, a car rumored to be an electric Lexus LFA successor. In practice, the transmission has been installed on a Lexus UX300e for testing.
Watanabe said that the prototype was "so much fun that the project is now under serious development and it might actually be on future BEVs." Indeed, when the driver changes gear, the hand-held camera even jerks a little, confirming that it behaves like a stick-shift ICE car.
The model car does look quite a bit livelier than a CVT-equipped UX, also raising the question of what it would be like in a true sports car like the Electrified Sport. Interestingly Watanabe has positive news about the sleek concept that is claimed to go from 0-62 mph in around 2 seconds. "I cannot tell you when we will be launching a production vehicle based on the Electrified Sport. But I can confirm that we are working on it."
He also affirmed that the manual transmission, along with all-wheel drive, steer-by-wire and brake-by-wire, were all being developed for the production version. "This is not just a design concept. It is meant to become reality."
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