Kia has revealed a new manual gearbox, using an electronic rather than mechanical linkage, for its forthcoming mild-hybrid models, which the firm claims offers improved fuel economy and greater driver engagement.
The new Intelligent Manual Transmission (IMT) system will be introduced on the 1.6-litre 48V mild-hybrid diesel powertrain for the Ceed and Xceed, and will also be used on the 1.0-litre mild-hybrid petrol version of the forthcoming refreshed Rio. It will then be introduced to other 48V electrified powertrains in the future.
The system replaces the traditional mechanical linkage for the clutch with an electronic wired connection, with the system then integrated into the 48V MHEV powertrain system. It works with the mild-hybrid’s starter-generator to switch off the engine when coasting – while keeping the chosen gear engaged – which Kia claims boosts fuel efficiency and reduces CO2 emissions by up to 3% in real-world conditions.
The IMT system has been developed at the Hyundai Motor Group’s European technical centre in Germany, with a specific focus on the European market due to the continued popularity of manual gearboxes. Michael Winkler, Kia’s powertrain boss, said that manuals still accounted for more than half of the Korean firm’s sales in Europe.
“Manual gearboxes are a real driver for Europe, so we wanted to look at how to electrify a manual transmission,” said Winkler. “When we look at the global picture we still see real demand for manual gearboxes, and we saw a real benefit to being able to offer a manual transmission on a 48V electrified system.
“While the system does boost real-world economy, it’s not all about efficiency but comfort for drivers: the 48V system offers a smoother stop-start system, for example. The benefit for customers is they don’t have to do anything different: the system does it automatically.”