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Is The Manual Transmission Making A Comeback in EVs?
While most drivers are satisfied that a car will just get them from point A to point B, some drivers prefer a more nuanced experience, where they can control every aspect of the experience; they are not about just driving but enjoying the drive. For these people, the lack of manual transmissions has been sorely missed, but they are about to be given a gift.
Why Electric Vehicles Do Not Have Clutches
Electric vehicles do not require a manual transmission. The gearbox solves the problem of potentially stalling, a potential problem with gas-based engines. A gearbox also makes it easier to shift between gears; that is, when the driver wishes for the system to deliver greater torque for greater speed or lesser torque for greater control, the driver can shift gears up or down respectively for the specific effect. There is also the visceral feel of being in control that a gearbox gives the driver while shifting which adds to the experience.
However, an electric engine does not need to increase its torque; if anything, the electric engine has more than enough potential torque for any situation. Also, there is no need for shifting down; if you desire greater control over the vehicle, you can just apply the brakes. As such, there is no physical need for a clutch; the advantages it gives just do not pertain to an electrical engineer. This means that the clutch that car aficionados love is superfluous in EVs and is thus commonly omitted from those builds.
That May Be Changing
Car companies, ever attentive to their customers, are starting to find ways to put clutches in their EVs in such a way that the clutch is an intrinsic part of the vehicle rather than merely an add-on. One solution is to offer three different modes: an idle mode, an automatic mode that operates as normal, and a clutch mode. The clutch mode effectively limits the magnetic field of the motor, with each gear opening up more power; this allows the driver to simulate the different levels of power and therefore gives that driver the desired level of control over its speed.
The only two currently on sale are the Porsche Taycan and Audi E-Tron GT, but it looks like Ford and Toyota are also exploring the possibility. Toyota has recently filed a patent as a first step before it works out the details of how it attaches to its vehicles. The vehicles are each fitted with a clutch pedal to work with the gearbox; while the patents make it clear that they are optional parts of the vehicle, they are nonetheless part of what makes enthusiasts happy to own the vehicle.
Similarly, Ford has also filed a patent for a manual transmission system, however, their patent will not include a clutch pedal but an electronic clutch built into the computer that would detect the movement of the shifter and change the gear internally within.
Some Additional Background
It should be noted that EVs did originally have a variation of a clutch, but that was to deal with the issues created by the under-par performances of the original batteries. However, these would be dropped over time as they ended up not really affecting the performance of the vehicles in question, and vehicles without them were performing more effectively. As there was no real need for their version of a clutch, it would eventually be dropped by manufacturers as “unneeded” even as manufacturers seem to be racing towards implementing them now.
This was also not the first time that features have been added in order to make car aficionados happy. Initially, one of the problems with EVs was that they were so quiet: With no internal combustion and its associated noise, EVs could run pretty silently. This made them feel a little weird, as drivers were used to using the sounds to determine how well their vehicles are doing. The relative silence also created some additional safety concerns, as pedestrians were used to listening for motors before crossing. Between the possible safety concern and the general dislike of quietness, a number of manufacturers ended up adding software that adds audio resembling a car's motor as an option.
It would also be noted that various hobbyists have been looking at converting an electric vehicle into a gas-powered one. There are a number of drawbacks to consider, ranging from where to place the engine to the electronics of the vehicle not understanding the information being given it causing all sorts of error messages, but conversions have nonetheless been made. It should be noted that these are not hybrid conversions, where the gas and electric engines would supplement each other, but full-on conversions. Suffice it to say that while they are of interest, they are still seen as more interesting than anything else.
A lot of the engineers of car manufacturers became engineers because they love cars, and that shows in their attentiveness to the needs and desires of their customers. Drivers have been complaining about a number of the differences between gas and electric motors, and car manufacturers have been trying to nail down those differences. While a lot of those differences are based simply on nostalgia, car manufacturers nonetheless are doing their best to factor in that nostalgia, especially when it affects the experience of driving. All told, bringing back the clutch should make for a good nostalgia trip for all involved.