Shifting from 3rd to 2nd instead of 4th? Not a problem anymore.
As the age of electrification draws near, both the manual and the automatic gearbox are soon to be relegated to the annals of history. Thankfully, we're still at least a decade away from the true death of combustion, and that means more time to explore the joys of a manual gearbox. And even when ICE is history, companies like Toyota and Lexus want us to feel the fun of shifting gears in an EV.
But until then, you may be surprised to learn that the manual transmission continues to be developed and perfected. BMW recently promised that its M Division would offer a manual for years to come, and now CarBuzz has discovered how it will make the system even better. How, you ask? By stopping you from blowing up your M3's powertrain in a 'money shifting' accident. Give us a moment to explain.
Allow us to set the scene: it's Friday night, you're at your local drag strip, and after weeks of trash talk with your buddy in his M4, you've brought your M3 to the track to prove that you've got the faster car and you're the better driver. You warm up the tires, inch toward the line, and get staged. Transmission in 1st, you dump the clutch and nail the launch, catapulting you ahead. You grab 2nd, keep your foot in it, and nervously try to keep the car straight. Slotting third home, you look over and see the M4's headlights right on your door.
You look down, see the red line approaching and get ready to grab the next gear. You snatch 4th, release the clutch pedal, and hear an explosion along with a million heartbreaking mechanical noises as smoke and steam rush from your hood. Simultaneously, you now have a BMW logo on your forehead and trauma to your chest from the seatbelt.
What happened? You money shifted. You went back into 2nd, not up into 4th, and now your gearbox and engine are metal confetti. Repairs will cost a fortune, hence the coining of the phrase.
As laughable as the scenario may seem from the comfort of our imagination, it's a very real possibility that can plague even the most seasoned racer, and BMW wants to put an end to it. In the new patent documents filed with the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (DPMA) that we discovered this morning, BMW outlines a system where the channels between gears (better known as gates) are guided and equipped with a locking unit (similar to the reverse-gear lockout system modern cars offer) to prevent you accidentally shifting into reverse, only here, the so-called blocking unit can be moved into a locking position across the entire spread of ratios.
The system proposes adding a mechanism with a sensor that can detect what gear the transmission is in and what speed the crankshaft is moving at. Alternatively, the system could determine the viability of a downshift based on the speed of the drive axle or what speed the car is doing, and just like in an automatic or double-clutch transmission, will prevent you from downshifting when it would mean over-revving.
Basically, the car will close off all gears that would cause damage to the vehicle at its current speed and reopen them when it is safe to do so. It's a lot like a rev-matching system in principle - manufacturers have already added auto rev-matching to make life easier on modern manuals - with the added benefit of a typical reverse gear's lockout concept, or at least a similar blocking unit.
With this, over-spinning the gearbox or engine is impossible, and the only gear you can select is the next one (or those above it).
In recent N55 and S55 BMW engines, a spun crank hub is a relatively common issue, and it's often caused by downshifts that are too aggressive. When the new gearbox reaches production, even the most inept of manual drivers can avoid disaster and shame.