The manual gearbox isn't dead yet, and perhaps an unlikely carmaker could be pushing for it to continue on with a new patent.
Roadshow reports Toyota is looking to copy an idea used with some automatic transmissions, which allows the driveline to 'free-wheel' when not under load.
Using a clutch system, the driving wheels can then roll freely - for example, down a hill - saving fuel and lowering emissions.
If Toyota's system comes to be, the free-wheeling auto idea could be applied to a manual gearbox.
It works in the same way your grandfather may have shifted to neutral while coasting downhill (swearing that the practice saved fuel).
When the system senses that the engine's power is not required to maintain momentum, an electronic device disengages the clutch to allow the engine to run at idle (or perhaps, not run at all).
Further, it can help learner drivers make smoother shifts and save over-revving the engine.
For drivers who attempt to downshift or upshift unnecessarily while coasting, the system uses pins to lock in the current gear. The same lock-in feature can save engines from over-eager learner drivers as well.
If the whole thing sounds familiar, perhaps that's because Bosch's e-Clutch concept offers much the same in benefits. Toyota's system would likely offer a point of difference to facilitate the patent application (perhaps the pin-lock system).
Rather than roll over and die, as many inside and outside the industry would like it to do, the manual gearbox seems to found a second wind.
The likes of Ford’s Focus RS and the Peugeot 308 GTI hot hatches are only offered as manuals, and Porsche found out the hard way that people who actually buy its cars still want the choice of a three-pedal set-up (as opposed to the peanut gallery, interested only in 0-100km/h times).
How Toyota plans to use its new manual-saving device is unclear, but the important thing is that Toyota plans to use it at all…
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