Bosch eClutch electronic clutchEnlarge Photo
Just five percent of new vehicles in the U.S. are sold with a manual transmission these days--a small band of enthusiasts or the penny-pinching keeping the increasingly archaic but undeniably fun stick-shift alive. Technology can still play a part in the humble manual though--and those embarrassing stalling moments could be a thing of the past if automakers implement the eClutch, developed by Bosch.
eClutch essentially makes the clutch redundant for the process of pulling away and rolling to a halt. From that alone, you can see the benefits--no more stalling due to imprecise clutch control, smoother starts, less strain on your left leg in traffic, yet allowing drivers to hang on to the stick shift itself. A low-speed automatic, everywhere-else manual, if you like. It's also cheaper than a normal automatic transmission (because it still uses simple manual architecture) and is said to reduce fuel consumption by 10 percent.
But how does it work? As the name suggests, the eClutch uses an electronically-controlled, rather than hydraulically-actuated clutch. Because there's no direct connection between clutch pedal and the clutch itself, the actuator can feed the clutch in and out as smoothly as it needs to. Whether you jump off the pedal from a standing start or forget to disengage it as you pull to a halt, the electronic system makes its own decision, eliminating the risk of stalling.
The driver still has control over the clutch--you can still start and stop as normal--but because it's electronic, you don't strictly need to, and can drive the car like an automatic in traffic. The efficiency benefit comes from the car's ability to coast whenever you back off the gas--though we expect such a feature would be switchable, allowing a driver engine braking if they required it. Furthermore, the system can work with a full hybrid drivetrain--i.e. switching drive between fully electric and fully combustion-powered in a way existing manual hybrids (like the Honda CR-Z) cannot.
Could it save the manual transmission? The hybrid compatibility and fuel gains certainly suggest it might, but we foresee a few problems from the die-hard enthusiasts: No burnouts, for one. Precise control might be another--just as some electronic throttles can be a bit mushy.
Would you welcome the electronic clutch? Leave your thoughts below.