A new patent from GM might just be the first sign that the new mid-engine Corvette will get a manual transmission.
We’ve been watching the upcoming C8-generation of Corvette at the Nurburgring for weeks now, and each time we’ve heard it in action we noticed that it has very short, very smooth shifts. Usually this means there’s a dual-clutch transmission at play (although an advanced automatic can’t be ruled out), which means that the classic manual transmission that Corvettes have always employed might be on their way out.
However, a new patent published on September 6th (and recently unearthed by Jalopnik) point to a brand new type of manual transmission that might just find its way to the next-gen ‘Vette.
The patent is called the “electric slave cylinder for manually shifted vehicles", and it basically replaces the old hydraulic method of activating the clutch in a manual transmission with an electric method. Call it “clutch-by-wire” to take from an old aviation design saying.
In an old manual engine, the driver depresses the clutch pedal which activates a hydraulic line that then moves the slave cylinder in the transmission to remove and replace the clutch. This new patent replaces those old hydraulic lines with electric versions, which greatly simplifies the whole process and removes the possibility of a transmission line leak causing the clutch to fail.
In addition to being less bulky, the new design also provides the possibility of being computer-controlled--at least, to a point. A computer could easily be wired into such an electric manual to take over the job of shifting entirely (which would make it effectively an automatic transmission), but the patent describes more relevant benefit as being able to automate some of the boring, tedious actions of a manual transmission such as the in-and-out of the clutch during stop-and-go traffic jams.
Seems like even a little automation is a slippery slope to total automation, but we live in a world of ever decreasing manual transmissions.
Whether or not the new C8 Corvette gets a manual transmission is an open question. GM hasn’t confirmed one way or the other, and we’re only assuming that the base-level Corvette will come with a manual since every Corvette that has come before it has.
But this is just a patent and not a guarantee of anything. The new Corvette could come out with a mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, and a 7-speed dual-clutch like every other mid-engine supercar. We’ll just have to wait and see.