In December 2018, Ford filed a patent application with the US Patent and Trademark Office for a manual transmission with electric clutch. The USPTO published the patent last November, Muscle Cars & Trucks discovered the paperwork this month. What we are talking about is another version of the automated manual transmission, a technical milestone that the automotive industry passed more than 70 years ago. What’s more interesting is the bit of MC&T’s assumption that comes with the patent discovery that this transmission could make its way into the next-generation S650-series Ford Mustang.
Mechanically, the basics are all there, including a set of gears for manual shifting, modified with the possible use of smart sensors in the shift knob. Without the clutch pedal, the drivetrain would understand when to shift by noting when the driver grabbed the gear lever and it started to move, acting like the daily manual transmission in everyday use. However, according to the patent, the electronic control of what could be a “dry friction clutch” can be tuned based on how the driver applies their fingers or pressure on the gear lever. The patent says the shifter sleeve is “flexible, at least in some areas, allowing the driver to slightly deform the knob, ie crush the knob.” In certain applications, the “force of pressure applied by the driver” can resemble working with a clutch pedal, with harder squeezing the clutch further disengaging, while softer ones do the opposite. Another type of delicate, fingertip clutch control would allow the driver to engage neutral by using a button or some other type of button press, rather than having to shift into neutral.
The patent claims the goal of this innovation is to give “many people, especially car enthusiasts…the increased interaction with the driver” of a manual, without “the negative qualities” of doing a calf raise every time a new gear is selected. is needed. This makes the Ford patent very similar to the Kia Intelligent Manual Transmission (IMT) that debuted in the European Kia Rio in 2020 and was developed for the same reason. The Kia IMT is designed for mild hybrids, where the electrical components of the powertrain are used to turn the engine on and off over a wider range of activities, possibly because the car can operate the clutch itself.
Ford’s idea is suitable for longitudinally mounted transmissions in rear- and four-wheel drive cars. The 2024 Mustang will offer hybrid powertrains, it’s possible Ford had this in mind too. The Bronco could also work. But as we always say, it’s a long road from patent to production, so this can’t get any further than the internet.