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Lexus to Bring Manual Transmission Experience to Electric Cars

Lexus EV Manual Transmission(Photo/Lexus)
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Lexus, a company that hasn’t sold a stick shift in 10 years, is planning to bring a manual transmission and clutch pedal to a future EV.

Imagine an electric car with the driver engagement of a manual transmission. Complete with a stick shift and a clutch pedal. It’s not Porsche, Ferrari, or Lamborghini talking about the idea, though. It is Lexus. The company is looking at adding the analog driver experience back to the electric vehicle equation.

Lexus Wants Fun to Drive EVs

Lexus EV Manual Transmission
(Photo/Lexus)

While Lexus and parent Toyota haven’t been as quick to bring EVs to market as some competitors, the company knows EVs are the most likely future for the automobile.

The plan, then: “All future development will be based on the principle of leveraging electrification to reinvent the driving experience. We want our vehicles to be truly enjoyable to drive,” said Lexus Europe boss Pascal Ruch.

Lexus engineer Takashi Watanabe said that the project began with company engineers sitting and talking about what they’d miss most with EVs. The manual transmission was high on the list. “There is nothing more engaging for a passionate driver than to be able to shift gears,” he said.

The company took one of its UX 300e crossovers — an electric version of the UX crossover that isn’t sold in North America. Then Lexus engineers fitted a gearshift, a clutch pedal, and a tachometer.

Afterward, the team created a “simulated drive force map” to emulate an internal combustion car. This lets the power surge and wane much like we would expect it to in a gas car instead of an EV’s continuous feed of power.

“This gave us so much fun that the project is now under serious development,” Watanabe said. He added that it might actually make it to future-production Lexus EVs.

System Can Mimic Gas Power

In a short video, Lexus demonstrated the system. You can hear a simulated engine sound rise and fall with the tachometer. Torque is delivered and therefore acceleration looks to rise and fall with the tach as well, though it’s hard to tell from the short clip.

Watanabe described the new system like this: “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.”

Lexus EV Manual Transmission
(Photo/Lexus)

Look closely, and you can see the control Lexus has added to access the different drive modes. The dial to the left of the wheel has a BEV mode as well as L4 for an inline-four experience and V8 for, well, a V8. As Watanabe said, more are possible.

Imagine a future EV that felt like the 563 horsepower 4.8L V10 the company used in the LFA, for example.

No, the clutch and stick aren’t physically connected to any drive components. So they likely won’t offer any real feedback either, though that could be simulated.

But Watanabe said that you will roll back on a hill start. You can even stall the EV — a truly impressive bit of tech. The idea of it is quite interesting, and, frankly, it sounds like fun. A stick shift and three-pedal driving when you want it and pure EV when you don’t.

Lexus Launching Other Driver Engagement EV Features

Lexus EV Manual Transmission
Lexus Electrified Sport concept; (photo/Lexus)

Lexus has more tech plans in store for its upcoming performance EVs. One of those is a steer-by-wire system called One Motion Grip.

Planned to launch with the RZ 450e, it will get rid of the need for hand-over-hand turning when parking or making tight maneuvers. But it will do it without becoming overly touchy on the highway — a problem suffered by ultra-quick steering ratios.

The Lexus Electrified Sport concept — an EV that looks to be the possible replacement for the LFA — was on stage during Watanabe’s announcement. Putting that car in that place is certainly no accident. It leaves us hoping that both the car and that electric stick will be coming to production sooner rather than later.

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