The simplicity of driving an all-electric vehicle is one of their main selling points. The way they deliver their power is via a single-speed transmission – which is essentially equal to one ‘gear’. This ‘gear’ sees the car from a standing stop all the way to the vehicles top speed. Simply select ‘Drive’, and depress the accelerator pedal until the world is a blur. There’s no fuss, no rev oscillation, no drama.
For motoring purists however, an EVs simplicity is often seen as a sanitisation and reduction of the driving experience. With the ban on ICE vehicles looming, many are worried that 2030 will see the end of the traditional driving experience.
Well, Toyota have come to the rescue. Poising themselves to be the darling of the traditional motoring world, the brand has patented technology for a simulated manual gearbox for electric vehicles. They say it’ll function identically to a traditional car; with a gear stick, clutch pedal and clever tech that limits torque dependant on which ‘gear’ is selected.
How does a manual transmission in an EV work?
Mechanically the underpinnings stay the same – a single speed transmission underneath, with electronic wizardry to simulate the feeling and functionality of a traditional gearbox. The on-board computer simply limits power output depending on the selected gear.
For example, just as in traditional cars, first ‘gear’ would be incredibly torquey. But top out at a low speed. Top ‘gear’ would allow the EV to hit its top speed, but the rate of acceleration would be limited – just as it would be in an ICE counterpart.
The clutch pedal won’t just be a formality either. Toyota are including vibrating plates in their design, which mimic the vibrations sent through the pedal of a traditional transmission. It’s reported that the feedback is variable too. So the weight of the clutch can either be set to ‘Land Rover from the 1980s’, or feather light modern hatchback.
It’s also very likely there’ll be an option to engage and disengage the manual gearbox, too. Allowing drivers to have the best of both worlds. Easy, low maintenance ‘auto’ mode as we currently see in EVs. With the ability to switch to ‘manual’ mode, for more spirited and involved driving.
Back to the Future
In reality, the introduction of artificial motor restriction will of course reduce the performance of the car. The thrill of rapid acceleration in a performance EV is incredible. But speed isn’t everything, and some drivers will prefer a more involved and controllable driving experience. This patent isn’t about refinement or efficiency. It’s about the visceral experience of dropping a gear for an overtake. Having complete control over the experience of driving. Going back to the roots of motoring with the tech of tomorrow.
Anything that encourages more drivers into EVs can only be a good thing. Sure, efficiency and ease are two cornerstones of the EV driving experience. But for a lot of drivers, motoring is also about fun. And keeping green-motoring fun is no bad thing.