Lexus has confirmed it is seriously developing a software-based manual transmission for electric vehicles and that it is working on a production version of the Electrified Sport Concept.
The company released the details at Toyota's Kenshiki media forum in Brussels, Belgium, where it said that its future EVs will "reinvent the driving experience" by raising vehicle performance and driver rewards. At the event, the luxury brand highlighted some of the innovative design and engineering to be found in its new generation models.
By far the most unusual one is the manual transmission for electric vehicles. The company revealed it is testing a manual gearbox on a research prototype based on the Lexus UX 300e compact SUV, equipped with a gear lever and a "clutch" pedal—obviously, it's not connected to a clutch because Lexus's future EVs won't have such a thing.
The automaker motivates its decision to develop a manual transmission for EVs with the fact that many drivers prefer the control and engagement provided by this type of gearbox, which for them is an important part of a fun driving experience.
"From the outside, this vehicle is as quiet as any other BEV. But the driver is able to experience all the sensations of a manual transmission vehicle. It is a software-based system, so it can be programmed to reproduce the driving experience of different vehicle types, letting the driver choose their preferred mapping."
Takashi Watanabe, Lexus Electrified Chief Engineer
The automaker did not say when its manual transmission will come to market, but it noted that together with the Direct4 torque-vectoring AWD, One Motion Grip steer-by-wire and brake-by-wire systems—which are also software-based—the manual gearbox "will provide new opportunities for performance customization to provide a personalized experience for each driver."
Gallery: Lexus Electrified Sport Concept
During the presentation, Lexus showed a video demonstration of the manual transmission fitted to the Lexus UX 300e research prototype (skip to the 14:30 minute mark of the video above).
The system appears to mimic the operation of a manual transmission fitted to an internal combustion engine, complete with engine noise and even a tachometer. It's so realistic that the handheld camera jerks a little between shifts, and the driver may even stall the car or roll backwards on a hill start if the clutch is not engaged.
The Lexus Electrified Sport concept, which previews the all-electric successor to the LFA supercar, looks like the ideal candidate to offer the manual transmission. Lexus did not say it explicitly, but Watanabe talked about the manual gearbox while standing in front of the Electrified Sport, saying that "it might actually be on some of our future BEVs."
The Electrified Sport represents the brand's vision for a future halo sports car with a battery electric drivetrain capable of accelerating from zero to 100 km/h (62 mph) in around 2 seconds. Lexus is working on bringing it to production, Watanabe confirmed.
"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. This is not just a design concept. It is meant to become reality."
There are no powertrain specs available yet, but given that the mind-blowing acceleration can't be achieved without all-wheel drive, it should have at least two electric motors. The manual transmission likely won't stand in the way of performance because it can be bypassed using a stalk on the steering column, as shown in the video demo—the stalk features L4, BEV, and V8 modes.
As for the range, Lexus previously said it will exceed 435 miles (700 kilometers), without mentioning on which test cycle it will achieve it.
Source: Lexus via Motor1