Fake 'Shifting' For Electric Cars: Dumbest Idea Of The Year

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Lotus Evora 414E extended-range electric car prototype

Lotus Evora 414E extended-range electric car prototype

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Gosh, those crazy electric cars. They're so different and confusing, eh?

We've now come across a new and thus-far unparalleled example of just how far people will go to avoid dealing with the realities of electric cars.

Which are, of course, smooth, quiet, and torquey, meaning they're fast off the line.

We already know the Gummint plans to require quiet electric cars to get noisier at low speeds, so that pedestrians deeply engrossed in their iPhonePodPads will hear them coming.

But this example has to do with the behavior of electric cars from the driver's perspective behind the wheel.

As you may know, electric cars dispense with the gear-shifting process that matches a combustion engine's peaky and narrow torque curve to the increasing road speed of the vehicle.

Once they try an electric car, most drivers fall in love with the seamless delivery of power, uninterrupted by rising and falling engine noises.

But Lotus apparently thinks that driving experience will be so strange, so odd, so foreign--so disturbing--to drivers of regular performance cars that it needs to remedy this alien driving experience.

According to a person close to Lotus Engineering, the company is experimenting with control software on its Lotus Evora 414E plug-in hybrid development car, which began testing last summer.

The new software will mimic the behavior of a multi-speed transmission. That is, under steady acceleration, every so often the system will actually cut power momentarily as if a transmission were shifting, before resuming the previous throttle setting.

Lotus also develops synthesized sounds, so perhaps the slight whine of the electric motor will be masked by the simulated roaring noise of a combustion engine?

Lotus Evora 414E extended-range electric car prototype

Lotus Evora 414E extended-range electric car prototype

Enlarge Photo

We think, frankly, this is a bizarre and idiotic idea.

It's even worse than the BMW engineers who very carefully tuned the hybrid transmission in the 2010 BMW ActiveHybrid X6 (now out of production) to behave exactly like a seven-speed automatic.

Their drivers were, it seems, either too demanding or too delicate to cope with a powertrain that behaved slightly differently than what they were used to.

It's enough to make us want to bring back crank starting, which occasionally broke the driver's arm during the processing of firing up the engine.

Meanwhile, we trust Lotus will talk to the tens of thousands of electric-car owners who very much like the transmission-free driving experience of cars running in all-electric mode.




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Comments (45)
  1. Yes, I love the seamless feel of an electric car, and I don't like the interruption in power when a normal multi gear transmission shifts. The shifting of gears is something I'm looking forward to loosing, Lotus really needs to get it's people out of the factory for some fresh air.

  2. Perhaps we can add fake exhaust next, to go with the artificial sounds. Brilliant!

  3. It will help to have fake shifting and exhaust but I really hope the car has a fake filler cap so I can pretend to pump gas into it. I would hate to give THAT up.

  4. Oh oh let me jump in. How about you put $9 dollars in a bag and burn it for every $1 of electricity you use in your EV, that would be fantastic!

  5. It has already been proposed for the Renault Zoe!


    Trevor, http://MyRenaultZoe.com

  6. Well we have fake cigarettes so why not!

  7. While we are getting rid of the shifting, can we also rid ourselves of the term horsepower?

    I just does not seem right in an electric car.

  8. @Peder: Here at Green Car Reports, we quote power output from electric motors in kilowatts, with the HP figure in parentheses.

    In the non-metric U.S. at least, this gives readers a chance to compare power between small, compact electric motors and larger, emitting combustion engines. In most of the rest of the world, of course, engine power is already quoted in kilowatts.

  9. Could it be that "horsepower" was the 19th century equivalent of fake shifting?

  10. "We already know the Gummint plans to require quiet electric cars to get noisier at low speeds, so that pedestrians deeply engrossed in their iPhonePodPads will hear them coming."

    So true! hahah.

  11. Maybe Lotus should also add exhaust sound and a "rev" switch so their drivers can "rev" their cars at stop light like some 17 yr old drag-racing idiot.

  12. If you want to really get the most power from your EV, install a gear set that takes advantage of the torque characteristics of the motor. The usual torque curve of an electric motor jumps up to full torque then stays there until it reaches the knee at about 3000 to 3500 rpm. Then the torque slowly drops because of the back EMF and Eddy currents. Design the gears so they shift up just below the knee and then the
    shifting will really mean something...oops, a race car.

  13. The original Tesla Roadster design indeed included a 2-speed gearbox, to maximize top speed without compromising acceleration.

    Tweaks to the motor and electronics however allowed Tesla to ditch the gearbox without sacrificing performance, in part because of lower losses in the now much simpler transmission.

  14. If Tesla came out with a model that had a manual transmission and a clutch, and that sportwagon render, oh joy!

    I would love to get my hands on one of those! But it all seems like utter science fiction to me.

  15. They should also add that simulated overfilled gas-tank smell, because, dang, drivers sure will have trouble if they don't smell it's a car.

  16. Maybe every so often it could splash petrol, or worse - diesel over the side of the car or your clothes while you simulate "filling it up" at a gas station. That would be fun. ;)

  17. Oh my sides hurt - I predicted this... but I was joking, "What's next after fake clumsy transmission creep, fake gear shifts?".

    I'm stuck now, my old joke falls flat now, I'll have to come up with a new one, er, let's try "Fake gear shifts, what next, artificial exhaust smell?", er, "Fake gear shifts, what next, an oil dispenser under the car to drip oil on the roads to keep the accident rate in winter up?", er, "Fake gear shifts, what next, an artificial gas tank so you can go to the filling station for old times sake?" - you pick.

  18. What's that, it smells like something's burning? Oh that, thats my artificial exaust simulator the smell reminds me of my grandfather's car. : )

  19. It's interesting that Lotus are going to so much trouble to replicate the gas-powered experience.
    However if they want to be genuine with their electric drive-trains then I hope they will also replicate the breathtaking unreliability of their internal combustion engined cars. I mean, it wouldn't be a real Lotus if it worked all the time.

  20. Lol I like it Gavin.

  21. I was dubious at first also but after having sat in it a year ago and tried the shifting sounds, I was convinced of something else, I can upload my own sounds. I love old cars but the idea of ever owning a 1950s Maserati A6GS are slim to none. So how about recording its sound, as well as that of other cars put it into your hybrid, PHEV if you want? That part I like, the idea in and of itself is OK, no more, no less. I wouldn't use it on a pure EV.

  22. What Lotus would probably end up doing is adding paddle shifters to simulate gears, but the primary drive would be like a normal electric. Maybe, I'm just saying what I think they should do. As for the engine sounds I personally love the idea, I'd take the sound of an operatic V6, a bassy V8 (I don't know what to call the 4 cyl., but I like that too) over the electric motor sound. I just thing it's a more appealing noise.

  23. bizarre and idiotic is right!

  24. Love the comment regarding crank-starting. So true. ;)

  25. It reminds me that I recently borrowed a mini van and find it making a lot of noise as soon as I got on the highway. I quickly discover it was in "S" rather than "D".

    What the heck is "S". Simulated manual shift in a minivan? Does anyone actually use that?

  26. I had a pickup with an "S" and I never understood the point either. Then I drove in the Rocky Mountains and all became clear. S provides serious engine braking going down hill. Otherwise you must rely on your brakes which will overheat, fail and then you die. I always thought the S stood for "second" as in second gear in a three-speed automatic, but I was too lazy to look it up. I still am.

  27. If that is all it is for, they could have a "B" setting where the transmission picks the right gear for creating engine drag.

  28. After all, automotive experts should recognize that automotive noise could be tuned the exact way that cell phone ring tones are. What better way to make a Nissan Leaf cool and feel less like the sleeper that it is than to make it sound like a Formula 1 car. Oops...my bad...how do you make a car with no clutch scream like a race car or a muscle car?

  29. (posted backwards...this one first) Ah yes...an industrial engineer who has little or no experience in real world engineering lecturing two legendary automakers on what customers want and what engineering should go into their technology. Those of us that don't ohhh-and-ahhh over new technology most likely don't care for the eerie quietness of electric cars. I have talked to people that have ridden in them once or twice that say that the quiet is disturbing. Artificial noise has already been integrated into cars (Porsche Panamera, BMW M5) for the emotional "needs" of the customer. Instead of "poo-pooing" the idea, maybe the idea of artificial noise should be embraced.

  30. @Randall: So your sources feel "the quiet is disturbing", eh?

    That must be why every automaker in the world works consistently to reduce the noise, vibration, and harshness transmitted to passengers in new cars. And why brands viewed as the highest on the luxury scale are the quietest and smoothest inside, hmmmmmmm?

  31. substitute "quiet" with "silent"...better choice in words.

  32. maybe the idea of artificial noise should be embraced.
    Maybe you should take a vote on it!

  33. They were probably "disturbed" by the lack of a "crank start" back in the day too... But I guess they got used to it :)

  34. Yes - "poo-poo" summarizes my feelings on this exactly.

  35. I want a manual transmission and the third pedal with a clutch, because that is what actually makes a car fun to drive and gives it personality, not the acceleration off of the line. So I guess I am an idiot for NOT wanting to just press the brake and the accelerator pedal and turn the wheel left and right!

    (And yes, I am fully aware that electrict cars have no need of a transmission.)

    Nevertheless, thank you Mr. Volcker.

  36. @ Mr. (Required) - you have an odd sense of fun. So if I offered you a free Tesla Roadster or a manual Yugo, you would pick...? Remember, acceleration is not important and that Yugo will have LOTS of personality.

  37. I would rather take the Yugo, thank you very much. Yes I would.

  38. Why do you read this site then?

  39. Do you want double clutch as well then? And you want to lean and richen the gas-air mixture too? Choke the fake carburator while starting? Maybe even shuffle some coal in the engine compartment while accelerating?

  40. No. But I do not want a boring car either. No clutch, no shifter, no fun.

  41. What we have here is a fundamental disagreement in expectations. I know I am not alone. I just talked to someone else who is a car buff, saying they will not have such a tough time accepting electrics because they already drive an automatic. That person's response: "it will be all drive by wire. I HATE THAT!!! No electric car for me."

    Other car people I have talked to said similar things. EV's get rejected for being like automatics, or for being drive by wire, or because of the batteries.

    The crux of the matter is, will anything change? People who are into cars and automechanics reject electric vehicles. Will anything be done to bridge the gap and win us over? And how will it be done? That is the interesting question.

  42. Annatar I hail from even an older era than you,been there done that and don't miss any of the antiquities,the world evolves, get over it otherwise buy a classic. The people you mention including some mechanics want things to stay the same because they are unwilling to learn the new procedures or technology.

  43. Where EVs are concerned we should also drop the "gear" selector lever since a push button or rotating knob would be more appropriate. Dispense with the term gas pedal and never call an electric motor an engine. This regularly happens in written and media reports which shows poor research and ignorance.

  44. "artificial noise" is being used . . . noise cancellation technologies of various forms is currently being used. !!.

  45. Personally, I love this idea. I think I will always prefer traditional internal combustion engines, because I feel that driving is supposed to be an experience, not just a means of driving. I love a loud, jerky engine, a tight exhaust. Driving is more than just getting from point A to point B.

    I applaud Lotus. This is one step forward when it comes to making electric cars fun. I am a fanatic of manual cars, so I certainly don't think I would buy it, but hey, still an awesome idea!

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