Of all companies, Toyota just might be the one to save the manuals. The future may look bleak for many enthusiast-oriented automotive technologies, but Toyota has just revealed that it is indeed working on a manual transmission for an upcoming sports car flagship. Perhaps even crazier, it’s actually Lexus that’s working on it, even though the division hasn’t made a stick shift car in 10 years.
Since February there have been rumors about Toyota’s manual transmission for electric vehicles, thanks to an application with the US Patent and Trademark Office. Many patents never even make it off the paper they’re sketched on, so it would have been totally understandable if you bet against it seeing the light of day. But Toyota kept quiet about it until yesterday.
It seems they’ve been working on the electric stick since at least 2020, according to Japanese patent office filings. “This new project all started with some Lexus engineers reflecting on what they liked about traditional [internal combustion] vehicles and what they had to miss out on with electric cars,” said Takashi Watanabe, chief engineer of Lexus Electrified. “[The] manual transmission was one thing they enjoyed in particular.”
The system consists of a shifter, clutch pedal, and tachometer. Of course, there’s no actual gearbox or clutch. Watanabe calls it a “simulated drive force map with pedal and shift positions to reproduce the feeling of a manual transmission.” In other words, it’s all software.
However, the system is apparently so realistic it even replicates the possibility of stalling or rolling back on a hill start. An accompanying video with the system installed on a Lexus UX300e shows the driver wielding the shifter like a real 5-speed (see it in action here at 13:27 in the video titled “Lexus Deep Dive”). The handheld camera even jerks when he shifts. And because it’s all programming, drivers can adjust their own “gear” ratios without cracking open a transmission case.
Watanabe closed his presentation with a ray of hope: The manual is being developed for the production version of the Lexus Electrified Concept, and possibly other models. The flagship is said to go from 0-100 kph in around two seconds and looks like it might share a platform with a Mazda RX-Vision road car. “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,” Watanabe said.”This is not just a design concept. It is meant to become reality.”