Chevrolet's worst-kept secret is the C8-generation mid-engine Corvette. We've heard a lot of rumors about the upcoming sports car with its engine mounted in the middle, but one has persisted: there won't be a manual transmission. That could change with a new patent General Motors has filed.
The patent was published on Sept. 6 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and details an "electric slave cylinder for manually shifted vehicles." In layman's terms, it's a clutch-by-wire system that would replace hydraulic lines. Jalopnik reported last Friday this is exactly that kind of technology that could put a manual transmission in the C8 Corvette.
GM patent for clutch-by-wire transmission system
Typically, a manual transmission features a clutch pedal mounted to the firewall with a clutch master cylinder directly in front of it. A hydraulic line extends from the master cylinder to the clutch slave cylinder to activate the clutch. It's the analog way of doing things, and it's been the norm for decades. GM's patent, however, envisions a sensor mounted on the clutch pedal. The sensor would tell the electronic slave cylinder to move the clutch plate without the need for a hydraulic line to do the act physically.
This kind of solution would forego the need for a hydraulic line to be run to the rear of the car in the C8 Corvette. The electric slave cylinder could also give the computer control of the clutch. This would take away one of the most mundane and bothersome parts of driving a manual-equipped car: clutching in and out when stuck in traffic. The patent list this as a benefit.
Critics might say that a clutch-by-wire system may not have the feel of a hydraulic clutch. That is yet to be seen and it would depend on how well Chevrolet would program it. However, the electric system would allow for consistent clutch pedal feel throughout the life of the clutch, something that doesn't happen with a hydraulic clutch.
Automakers file to patent solutions often, and there's no guarantee we'll see a manual transmission make its way to the C8 Corvette. But a Corvette without a manual is almost like fries without the shake. Is it needed? No, but it's certainly more satisfying.