Kia reveals new clutch-by-wire manual gearbox for 48-volt mild hybrids

Kia has revealed a new manual gearbox using an electronic linkage for the clutch, rather than a mechanical system, which has been designed for use in the brand’s next fleet of 48-volt mid hybrid cars. 

The system, called intelligent manual transmission (iMT), promises to cut CO2 emissions and boost fuel economy, while the company claims it retains a natural, mechanical clutch pedal feel.

The iMT works alongside the belt driven starter-generator integrated into the powertrain as part of the 48-volt mild hybrid system. Using a system like it means that the stop-start system can cut in to switch the engine off at higher speeds, allowing for longer periods of engineless coasting. 

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The chosen gear remains engaged and the clutch opens even with the engine off, so the engine can restart seamlessly in drive when the driver touches the accelerator pedal at the end of a coasting period. The 48-volt system can bring the engine speed instantly back to the correct revs, but if the car has slowed too much and engine speed is too low to resume in the same gear, it can restart the engine in neutral – something it also does if the clutch pedal is pressed.

Kia says the iMT possesses the same operation feel and engagement as a traditional mechanical gearbox, and even has greater controllability of the clutch’s biting point thanks to electrical management. 

The iMT is being launched on Kia models with the new ‘Smartstream’ 48-volt mild hybrid powertrains. The first car to get it will be the latest Ceed in 1.6 CRDi diesel mild hybrid form. It’s also coming to the newly facelifted Rio in 1.0-litre T-GDi petrol form, with more models to receive the iMT transmission later in 2020. 

Do you think Kia’s new manual gearbox is a good idea? Let us know your thoughts below…

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