Bosch eClutch: Cheaper, More Fuel-Efficient Automated Manual Gearbox


Bosch eClutch electronic clutch

Bosch eClutch electronic clutch

Less than 10 percent of new cars sold in the U.S. are equipped with manual transmissions.

The ease of automated shifting has proved more alluring for drivers, even for many enthusiasts who buy sporty cars.

But the development of manual-transmission technology may not be over--although embarrassing stalls just might be.

MORE: Why CVTs Won, Direct-Shift Gearboxes Lost Fuel-Economy Fight

Bosch is developing a system called eClutch that essentially allows a manual car to be driven like an automatic in low-speed traffic.

The company is eying the Indian market for its first major deployment of eClutch, along with other new technology designed to improve the efficiency of smaller vehicles, according to Autocar Professional.

The eClutch system automates the clutch only--not the entire--transmission. So everything still works like a conventional manual, and drivers still shift as usual, but they no longer need to use the clutch.

2006 Mazda Miata

2006 Mazda Miata

That means the driver can roll away from a standstill or slow to a halt without using the clutch--making driving in heavy traffic much easier.

This is accomplished by replacing the hydraulic clutch of a typical manual with an electric one, allowing for more precise computer control.

With no physical connection between the clutch pedal and the clutch itself, the system can smooth out jerky clutch engagements, or actuate the clutch all by itself if need be.

ALSO SEE: GM To Fit CVTs To Many Car Models For Higher Fuel Economy

In addition to the benefit of convenience, Bosch claims eClutch can improve efficiency as well.

Under certain circumstances, eClutch disengages the engine to allow a car to coast when the driver lets off the gas pedal--reducing fuel consumption by up to 10 percent, Bosch says.

The system is also expected to be cheaper than a traditional automatic, because it still uses the simpler design of a manual gearbox, with only the switches and actuators added.

Honda Brio - Indonesian-market version - Driven, 11/2012

Honda Brio - Indonesian-market version - Driven, 11/2012

Bosch is currently demonstrating eClutch in India using a Honda Brio hatchback, and claims it could launch the system there in 2016.

No U.S. plans were discussed, but perhaps a more-efficient, stall-free transmission could get more buyers to give the good 'ole manual a second look.

From 1968 through 1976, Volkswagen offered an earlier version of such on its Beetle and Karmann Ghia models, called the "Automatic Stickshift."

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It was essentially a three-speed manual gearbox with a clutch actuated by a vacuum solenoid.

When the driver's hand touched the knob on the gear lever, the solenoid disengaged the vacuum clutch; when the driver's hand lifted off the gear lever, the clutch re-engaged.

Everything old is new again, it seems.

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