Toyota and Lexus made a wierd announcement final 12 months: it was growing an EV with a “handbook transmission.” It even mentioned that it was deep in improvement, not simply tacking the function onto a non-functional design idea. And the weirdest a part of all of it was that it could be a handbook for an EV that was nonetheless only a single-speed EV. It seems it is all true. The Japanese automaker has been growing the system, and we really acquired to strive it out, together with one other EV prototype that may simulate a number of inside combustion powertrains, on the firm’s check middle exterior of Nagoya, Japan. It form of broke our brains with how properly it labored.
Among the many many desirable facets of those prototype autos (a Lexus UX 300e for the handbook transmission, and a Lexus RZ for the a number of powertrains) is that the execution is pretty easy. The handbook model is probably the most advanced, because it consists of the addition of a clutch pedal and an H-pattern shifter, particularly a six-speed. However neither are literally linked to something. It is actually simply the shifter and simply the clutch pedal, with no linkages to anything. Every element additionally has a sensor to detect shifter and clutch pedal positions. Every part else is solely operated by software program that manipulates the electrical motor. The pc merely adjusts how a lot torque is on the market relying on RPM, car velocity and “gear” with the intention to simulate an inside combustion engine energy curve. It then cuts energy when the clutch is depressed. Partial clutch use additional adjusts how a lot torque is on the market from the motor to simulate clutch slip. This system additionally adjusts how a lot regenerative braking is used based mostly on velocity, RPM and equipment.
Probably the most outstanding trick it performs is the sensation of coming near stalling. In case you have not pushed a handbook transmission car, it is best to know there is a level the place, should you’re not giving sufficient throttle as you carry your foot from the clutch pedal, the automotive will flippantly buck and chug. Both you give it extra throttle and it smooths out and retains going, or you do not, and the automotive stalls. To create this sense, Toyota engineers mentioned that they apply frequent, jerky throttle inputs to the electrical motor. It is going to even “shut off” if it would not get sufficient throttle in time. In fact, not like a handbook inside combustion engine, this one “restarts” as quickly because the clutch is totally depressed. Nevertheless it’s wonderful that principally each powertrain sensation of a handbook transmission is simulated, simply with intelligent energy and throttle settings for the electrical motor.
There are different additions in addition to the throttle calibrations and controls. Toyota additionally provides simulated engine sounds for all of those circumstances and even a tachometer that receives simulated alerts. This implies you may hear and see the “revs” rise and fall with pedal functions. You possibly can even pop it into “impartial” and “rev” it.
Among the many bodily, visible and aural tips, the UX prototype feels similar to a handbook inside combustion engine. It is so extremely pure. And the suggestions was reasonable sufficient I needed to ask the engineers if there have been any type of pressure suggestions motors within the clutch pedal to speak feeling, and there are none. The one actual chink within the armor is the arcade cabinet-feeling shifter (not being linked to an precise gearbox makes it listless). It is actually that good.
Toyota’s engineers have additionally been considering of foolish issues you are able to do with handbook transmissions. I requested the engineer driving with me should you might hypothetically do a way utilized by drifters referred to as a “clutch kick.” That is when a drifter shortly presses and releases the clutch pedal to ship a shock via to the rear wheels to assist break the rear finish free. He confirmed that is one thing that might be completed. And associated to it, he requested me to cease the automotive on the check course straight, after which “rev” it to six,000 RPM indicated on the tachometer. He then mentioned for me to shortly launch the pedal, and, had I been somewhat higher with my throttle and clutch pedal strikes, we might’ve completed a burnout. He mentioned it could even be simpler to do a burnout with a bit extra energy and rear drive.
Utilizing comparable strategies, Toyota created one other prototype car, on this case a Lexus RZ, that may simulate a number of completely different powertrains. The three autos, along with the bottom RZ, had been a Toyota Passo economic system automotive, the Toyota Tundra and Lexus LFA, every with corresponding numbers of “gears” as much as the Tundra’s 10-speed. And once more, the simulations had been carried out with completely different programming to restrict torque software based mostly on fuel engine energy curves. Acceleration could be lower at particular instances to simulate the automated transmission shifts. An onboard speaker with recorded sound would assist full the phantasm. Actually spectacular was the truth that it could “downshift” at instances when demanding extra acceleration, and the roughness of the “shifts” would fluctuate based mostly on throttle enter and “rpm.” Once more, it was all fascinating and convincing.
Granted, the weak level on this simulation of different automobiles is that it may well solely replicate the powertrain. You possibly can’t simulate roughly weight or completely different suspension designs. In order quickly as you are heading round corners, the phantasm shatters.
For all of the gushing I’ve completed in regards to the tips pulled by these magicians at Toyota, I am nonetheless unsure what sensible or salable objective this all has exterior of its pure leisure worth. I can consider some extraordinarily area of interest sensible instances, although. For educating somebody to drive handbook, this expertise could be very good, because you by no means actually stall, and there is not any clutch or transmission to wreck. Maybe for a efficiency EV, simply having a clutch operate might be useful sans the handbook gimmickry for some superior driving strategies, too.
Toyota has imagined just a few area of interest instances of its personal, equivalent to the thought of with the ability to buy completely different profiles of historic autos or maybe efficiency profiles. The Lexus LF-ZL, revealed on the Tokyo present, had actually nifty mannequin automobiles that will retailer these profiles, together with different data.
However would these actually get somebody to purchase a Toyota or Lexus EV over one thing else? And if it did, would the homeowners actually use it usually? In spite of everything, the electrical driving expertise with its throttle response, versatile energy, smoothness and regenerative braking are all actually interesting on their very own deserves. And for that matter, should not we be discovering the distinctive traits that make EVs enjoyable and embracing that, relatively than making an attempt to pressure it to be one thing it isn’t?
Honestly, I do not actually have a solution to any of this. I actually like EVs for being EVs, however I genuinely had enjoyable with these prototypes, so I am conflicted. Perhaps this analysis will result in methods to play with an EV powertrain that nobody has considered but. Perhaps it is going to be a lifeless finish. I want I had a extra definitive conclusion right here, however all I can say is that that is actually fascinating expertise, and the following few years of EV improvement must be memorable, whatever the subsequent success.