German auto parts supplier Bosch has developed a new system it says closes the gap between manual and automatic transmissions.
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Dubbed eClutch, the system is based on an electronically controlled clutch that works to decouple the transmission from the engine via an actuator.

Claimed by its manufacturer to net a 10 per cent saving in fuel consumption and make driving a manual car in stop-start traffic easier, the Bosch eClutch allows drivers to engage first gear without the use of the clutch.

The feature not only means drivers “can simply use the brake and gas pedal, just like in an automatic transmission”, it also eliminates the risk of accidentally stalling the engine.

Bosch says “in the future”, the eClutch system will automatically decouple the engine from the transmission if it detects a reduction in throttle pressure before then stopping the engine altogether in a bid to further improve fuel economy.

2009 Toyota Prius transmission lever

Still a step shy of a conventional automatic transmission, eClutch only automates the clutching in and out process, still requiring gears to be manually selected.

Bosch says additional advantages of the system include making gear shifts smoother, thanks to a sensor that detects the start of a gear shift and adjusts engine speed accordingly, and the potential to team with electrified powertrains.

According to the renowned parts specialist, eClutch would make the mating of a manual transmission with a hybrid drive system possible “for the first time” – this has been seen with Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist system on the five-speed manual-equipped Civic Hybrid but not on ‘full’ hybrid models such as the Toyota Prius (pictured above).

Along with claiming the eClutch system would cost “significantly less” than a conventional automatic transmission, Bosch believes its unit also has the potential to reduce the cost of entry-level hybrid vehicles.

Despite the brand’s excitement surrounding the electronically controlled clutch, it is yet to announce any production plans or alliances with any car makers.