New Technology: Clutchless Manual Transmissions to Conquer the US?

Automated manual transmissions: A greener alternative

Less than 10% of the cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. last year, were vehicles with traditional manual transmissions and clutch pedals. This is significantly less than on the European car market where manual transmission cars are more or less the norm.

That will be partly due to the fact that a manual transmission usually provides better fuel efficiency. However there is a new technology that offers the fuel economy of a stick shift without the hassle of a clutch.

Better fuel efficiency with with the benefits of an automatic transmission

Car manufacturers in Europe have been expanding the use of clutchless, or automated, manual transmissions for several years under number of different names and forms as a response to consumer demand for fuel-saving technology in a market where the price of fuel is high (and rising).

And that demand is also there in the States. Ans now clutchless manuals are crossing over to the U.S. There, car manufacturer Ford has developed new Fiesta and Focus models that both come with a choice of a six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment, or a six speed “PowerShift” transmission, which is Ford’s version of a clutchless manual.

How does it work?

With Ford’s PowerShift technology, drivers are able to choose between cruising along with the floor-shifter in “D” (for drive), letting the transmission’s software do the shifting or pull the shift lever back to “S” (for shift) and press buttons on the side of the shift lever to change gears manually.

In “D” the driving the vehicle feels like driving an automatic, except for a subtle but noticeable stutter when moving out of first gear. This is one of those things that is typical for a stick shift. But it has led to some complaints from buyers of Ford cars with Powershift transmission.

Therefore car manufacturer Ford has decided to launch a campaign to help educate buyers on the clutchless manual transmission and the way it functions. Moreover, the car brand is currently considering ways to recalibrate the transmission to smooth out the performance.

Is this fuel-efficient vehicle a good investment?

At the moment, the PowerShift technology is still rather pricey. In a Ford Focus car, you have to pay around $1,000 for this technology, on top of the $16,500 starting price. But the technology allows the Focus to get up to 38 miles per gallon on the highway, a 2-mpg improvement over the regular six-speed manual, which will pay-off in the long run. A Focus SFE model equipped with PowerShift and other fuel-saving technology gets up to 40 mpg on the highway. So if you are likely to keep your vehicle for a few years or drive a lot of miles with it, it is an investment that can pay off.