Lexus Confirms Manual Transmission For Future Electric Cars

Electric Vehicles / Comments

"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."

"Lexus Electrified to reinvent the driving experience."

That's the heading on the latest release from the Japanese luxury automaker, and it has now spilled more details on just how it will do that, with the brand's recent media forum in Brussels providing a simple takeaway: "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."

Those are the words of Pascal Ruch of Lexus Europe. Although many of the technologies the company is working on will be initially presented on an SUV, their benefits will be felt in all cars - including electric supercars - to come.

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Lexus introduced the hybrid RX 400h SUV in 2005, and it has used almost two decades of experience to make batteries smaller and more efficient. For example, the upcoming Lexus RZ 450e promises segment-leading efficiency of 16.8 kilowatt-hours per 100 kilometers, which should translate to around 3.7 miles per kWh and a range of 273 miles on the WLTP combined cycle.

Furthermore, the new RX Hybrid debuts a bi-polar nickel-metal hydride battery that increases the output of each cell by 70%, which means more power can be provided without making the battery any bigger. This is an exciting development for supercars and sports cars, although the benefits in real-world use of everyday EVs are more critical.

Lexus also says that a monitoring system detects any unusual heating on an individual cell level, the use of non-conductive coolant prevents the risk of fire, and the design of the battery prevents degradation, which should allow the new RZ to maintain 90% of its battery capacity over 10 years of use.

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But what you really want to know about is the way these cars will feel. The DIRECT4 system on the RX 500h and RZ 450e can balance the torque delivered to each axle for optimum traction in all driving conditions. This will also contribute to "linear acceleration and enhanced cornering and vehicle posture," as well as improved ride comfort, especially for those sitting in the rear.

Another Lexus-exclusive technology is One Motion Grip, a steer-by-wire system that does away with the mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the front wheels. Why is this good? Well, it will "transform the driving experience, eliminating the need for hand-over-hand turns of the wheel," making turns easier and more precise while contributing to improved low-speed agility and highway stability. Lexus says the system will make automatic micro-corrections when driving over uneven surfaces. This tech is set to be introduced on the RZ.

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The company has also made it official that the Lexus Electrified Sport concept - the electric successor to the LFA supercar - is aiming for a 0-62 mph time of "around two seconds," while a manual transmission developed for EVs is being trialed on a Lexus UX 300e, this will make its way to the Electrified Sport's production variant, which may be called the Lexus LFR is recent trademarks are anything to go by.

This test vehicle has a gear lever and a clutch pedal, and Lexus Electrified chief engineer Takashi Watanabe promises real engagement: "From the outside, the vehicle is as quiet as any other BEV. But the driver can 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."

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According to an earlier report from Autocar, Watanabe says that this system can be stalled and that the accelerator software will closely mimic the experience of linear progression that you get from a traditional combustion drivetrain. In addition, the abovementioned steer-by-wire system will be customizable according to different drive modes. The system will also mimic the sound of an engine, an area that Lexus will have to work very hard to perfect if it wants enthusiasts to embrace EVs fully.

In summary, Lexus is introducing unique technologies to hybrids and fully-electric vehicles. The lessons learned in these vehicles will inform the next generation of all-electric supercars and sports cars.

Lexus is determined to set itself apart with how its EVs will feel and respond, but we still have no idea when a production version of the Lexus Electrified Sport concept will make its way onto the global stage. Whenever that is, the car had better be good.

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