An EV with “manual transmission”
I’ll tell you why I put those in air quotes in a minute, but yea, a recently discovered patent filed by Toyota (in June 2021) mentions an electric vehicle with some kind of a shifter. Now, before you get too excited, I think I should probably tell you that there’s not gonna be an actual gearbox and you’re not actually shifting gears. Confused? Let me try to explain with a simple example.
You probably have tried or at least heard of some CVT vehicles offering a “manual” mode, right? Well, those are just simulated shifts and you’re not actually shifting anything coz, as you might know, there are no physical gears in a CVT. A traditional CVT is made up of pulleys connected by a rubber belt or chain, with limited power & torque handling capability. The Lexus LC 500h (hybrid) has a strange hybrid transmission that combines a CVT with a 4-speed automatic transmission to achieve a 10-speed simulation, but that’s a different story.
Coming back to this story, the “manual transmission” Toyota is talking about in an electric vehicle is also some kind of a simulated experience, and there’s not gonna be a traditional 5-, 6- or 7-speed manual gearbox hooked up with the electric motor. In its patent filing, Toyota mentions a “pseudo-clutch pedal” and a “pseudo-shifter”:
The controller of the electric vehicle is configured to control the torque of the electric motor using the MT (manual transmission) vehicle model based on the operation amount of the accelerator pedal, the operation amount of the pseudo-clutch pedal, and the shift position of the pseudo-shifter. The electric vehicle also includes a shift reaction force generator that generates a shift reaction force in response to the operation of the pseudo-shifter using the reaction force actuator. The controller is configured to store the shift reaction force characteristic simulating the characteristic of the shift reaction force according to the operation of the shifter. Then, the controller is configured to control the shift reaction force output by the shift reaction force generator according to the operation of the pseudo-shifter using the stored shift reaction force characteristic.
Yea, that might seem a little complicated to fully understand, but the important thing to note here is the term “pseudo”, which is just a classy way of saying “not really”. But hey, if Toyota wants to make our inevitable boring future filled with EVs that make fake sounds a little bit more exciting, I think we should welcome this EV with a “manual transmission”. I, for one, “cannot wait”.
And in case you’re wondering why EVs don’t have or need a traditional transmission, Jason Fenske of Engineering Explained does a good job of answering that question: