Lexus Really Is Working on a Manual Transmission for Its Upcoming Performance EVs

Hmm...could this actually work?

Lexus Electrified Sport Concept
(Images: Lexus)

Would you really want a manual transmission with your electric sports car?

We’ve been lamenting the slow, painful demise of the manual transmission around the TFL office over the past several years. The option’s all but disappeared from trucks, sports cars and even economy cars that held onto it for the sake of a cheap “no frills” entry point for buyers. The widespread push toward electrification seems to be the final nail in the coffin for three-pedal enthusiasts…or so we thought. Instead, Toyota and Lexus are indeed working on a manual transmission (of sorts…more on that momentarily) as a way to keep the driving experience alive, according to a report from Evo. We’ve seen patents to that effect before, but this reinforces that it’s actually going to happen.

Lexus is running point on the project — a strange development, considering the brand’s hardly known for stick shifts to the same extent as some rivals. Rather than using an actual, mechanical manual transmission bolted to an electric motor, the goal here is to simulate the experience. Lexus’ idea uses an unconnected gear lever with a clutch pedal and uses haptic feedback to make it feel more real. Or, at least that’s the goal.

As a proof of concept, the automaker’s working on developing the technology with a UX 200e crossover, as Evo shows below:

That concept isn’t new in itself: Clutch-by-wire is how Koenigsegg’s CC850 supercar effectively becomes both an automatic and a manual within the same transmission. On the upside, such systems also don’t necessarily require the sort of finesse a conventional manual transmission needs to get moving, since your clutch and shifter actions aren’t connected to…well, anything. However, this particular system will evidently translate just dumping the clutch into equally clumsy forward movement.

Lexus fitted a prototype tachometer for the task, and you’ll even be able to “stall” it (according to Evo‘s report), to really replicate the manual driving experience.

Is it worth the effort?

On paper, this sort of technology would allow your EV to mimic different sorts of powertrain combinations by changing the haptic feedback and the motor output. In practice…personally, it’s tough not to feel torn on this one.

I am 110% in the #savethemanuals camp, so the notion of row-your-own options existing in the EV age is enticing. On the other hand, knowing that the transmission isn’t really connected to the motor can siphon some of the manual’s initial appeal away.

What do you think? Is this a technology you’d be happy to try out in a future Lexus EV?