BMW is playing its part to save the manuals by finally installing a clutch pedal in the Z4 M40i. While rival brands are abandoning do-it-your-self gearboxes, the M division continues to give a shift. You can still row your own gears in a new M2, M3, or M4. Will this essential feature survive in the inevitable EV era? It would pretty much be a gimmick to recapture the magic of shifting gears in a sports car powered by a combustion engine.
InsideEVs spoke with BMW Head of R&D Frank Weber about the prospects of a simulated transmission in an EV. He didn’t completely dismiss the idea but suggested it doesn’t rank high on the list of priorities: “To emulate that you have fixed gears and you shift them, probably we can do in the afternoon after we’re done with the other things.”
Keep in mind that BMW M boss Frank van Meel indicated in an interview earlier this year that a simulated gearbox might actually come in handy on a race track. He believes the ability to “simulate gears or to have another acoustic feedback or even vibrations as feedback” would be useful. Why? His logic is that you wouldn’t have to take your eyes off the road to see how fast you’re going. He admits engineers are looking into this technology for a future electric M car.
Toyota, which worked with BMW on the Supra/Z4 collaboration, has engineered an EV prototype that has a manual gearbox. The Japanese marque seems to be determined to put three pedals in an electric car since it has built a Lexus UX electric crossover prototype with a clutch pedal. However, should there be a production EV with a six-speed manual, logic tells us it’s going to be a sports car.
Returning to Frank Weber’s interview with InsideEVs, the man in charge of development at BMW joked, “Yeah, we can maybe emulate a stick also, a digital stick.” When asked his opinion about EVs with external speakers that mimic the roar of a gas engine, he basically ruled it out: “Yeah, you can do this. I think it would not be in line with what BMW is known for.”