BMW's design proposal acknowledges that automated transmissions have a clear advantage in terms of efficiency due to their wider range of gear ratios. However, BMW is looking to bring the manual transmission up to par by adding 7, 8 or even 9 gears.
With lower demand for manual transmissions in recent years, an increasing number of models are being offered without it. Double-clutch automatic transmissions have grown in popularity since they often match or surpass the fuel economy and performance levels of manuals transmissions while adding to overall driving comfort. Despite this, there are strongholds of consumers, particularly driving enthusiasts, who prefer the stick shift. Although purely subjective, the manual transmission allows drivers to feel more connected to their vehicle giving an enhanced sense of control and performance.
In recognizing this, the first seven-speed manual transmission was revealed on the 2012 Porsche 911 late last year, and now reports of other auto manufacturers also incorporating the techology have emerged. The operating principle of Porsche's 7-speed has gears 1 through 6 as normal ratios while the 7th gear comes with a long ratio for improved fuel economy. However, these uncovered patent office design sketches from BMW build upon Porsche's principle by adding a few new ideas.
BMW's design proposal acknowledges that automated transmissions have a clear advantage in terms of efficiency due to their wider range of gear ratios. However, BMW is looking to bring the manual transmission up to par by adding 7, 8 or even 9 gears. In doing so, safety problems have emergeg such as incorrect gear selection which causes the engine to over-rev or stall. BMW's solution is to use a gear shift mechanism that only allows shifts that are within an allowed range to be executed. Technically speaking, this would be implemented by having the shifter gates surrounded by a magnetorheologic or electrorheologic fluid. Monitored by various sensors, a magnetic field or electric voltage applied to the fluid would change its viscosity, physically preventing or allowing certain gears to be engaged.
"The technology can be used on a traditional manual transmission with up to 8 gears. The driver rows his own gears as usual (and uses a clutch pedal), but the computerized shifting module described above allows the driver to shift into proper gears while blocking dangerous gears, thus avoiding mechanical over-revs (the "money shift") for a manual transmission with so many gears," according to the design proposal.
BMW also envisions this technology for a second application called "Shift by Wire." Combining the best of both worlds, Shift by Wire completely omits the clutch pedal. Think of it as an SMG sequential gear box but with the traditionally gated manual gear shift lever possibly up to 9 speeds.
Whether this technology will come to fruition remains to be seen, but it's encouraging to see BMW hasn't given up on the good old stick shift, yet.