Yes, it’s a headline that seems as absurd as it is confusing with no context. However, it’s no secret that Toyota has been working on bringing some kind of simulated manual gearbox to its future electric vehicles. Well, a new patent reveals they could offer as many as 14 ‘gears’ to row through.
Toyota has already showcased the overarching tech through a handful of Lexus UX demo cars. As with any manual, there is a gear lever and a clutch pedal, yet neither is physically connected to anything.
Instead, the interaction is completely simulated and could replicate the experience of changing gears in any car Toyota feels like recreating - with a bit of piped-in sound to further trick your brain.
So, how would 14 gears work? According to Toyota’s patent “the number and patterns of the torque characteristics may be altered arbitrarily”, or in other words, you’d be able to pick how many ‘ratios’ you want at your disposal and how they simulate torque.
By the looks of the accompanying technical drawings, you’d be able to select those virtual ratios through a more conventional six-speed gearstick. Gears one through six would work as you’d expect before effectively doing the reverse, with fifth becoming seventh, fourth becoming eighth and so forth. Toyota shows its diagrams with up to 14 gears, though doesn’t specifically state it could be limited to that number, or in reality go as high as that.
Of course, it’s always worth taking patents with a large grain of salt. There’s no indication that Toyota will put this selectable ratio tech into production, and could just be a sign of some clever thinking it wanted to hold the rights to.
That said, with a new Toyota MR2 on the horizon - a seemingly electric one at that - you could argue there’s no better car to debut this kind of tech on. Coincidental timing? Possibly, but not definitely.