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Ford Gave This Electric Mustang A Manual But Not The Shelby GT500

All image credits: Ford
All image credits: Ford

For this year’s SEMA show, Ford rolled out something both very neat and very puzzling. The car in the photo you see above is called the Ford Mustang Lithium. It’s an all-electric prototype, makes big power and also has a manual transmission. But why?

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The Lithium Mustang makes over 900 horsepower and 1,000 lb-ft of torque from an 800-volt battery system. All that’s mated to a manual Getrag MT82 six-speed transmission that’s been fortified to withstand all the torque, according to a press release.

It also has track handling pack, strut tower brace, Brembo front brakes from the Shelby GT350R, side splitters, rear diffuser and clear polycarbonate windows. The interior looks rad! I love all the blue detailing everywhere.

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Though the car is still a prototype for now, Ford says that it is a “testbed for battery and thermal management technologies” that will undoubtedly be used in future EV products.

Illustration for article titled Ford Gave This Electric Mustang A Manual But Not The Shelby GT500

Here’s the thing with EVs, though. Nobody expects them to come with manual transmissions. By design, electric cars usually only have one forward gear. We’ve all accepted this. So why does the electric Mustang have a six-speed manual? It was already cool on its own with all the go-fast bits.

If anything, the manual just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Another car Ford launched recently that you might have heard of, the Shelby GT500, seems like a car that’d definitely be offered with a manual. Especially so, given its history and performance orientation.

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But the GT500 instead only comes with a seven-speed, Tremec dual-clutch transmission. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very nice transmission, and brutally quick when it needs to be, but it’s still not a manual.

I now feel surlier than ever that this electric prototype got the manual, while the supercharged V8 Mustang, which is real and in production and you can buy, did not.

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Illustration for article titled Ford Gave This Electric Mustang A Manual But Not The Shelby GT500
Illustration for article titled Ford Gave This Electric Mustang A Manual But Not The Shelby GT500
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Illustration for article titled Ford Gave This Electric Mustang A Manual But Not The Shelby GT500

Writer at Jalopnik and consumer of many noodles.

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DISCUSSION

I would LOVE an electric car with a simulated manual stick and clutch setup. In a previous post a while back I outlined, what I felt, is the most viable way to make a manual EV. In short, it’s all simulated. You’re essentially playing a video game with your real world driving. The stick and clutch pedal are just sending signals to the electric motor limiting the max RPMs of the real motor based on what “gear” you’re in, all while piping in a fake electric whine to make it sound like you’re hitting the “red line” once you’ve maxed out the “gear.” They could even go so far as to simulate cut-off and have it bounce off the virtual rev-limiter. The clutch, likewise, would act as an analog 0% to 100% switch, limiting power to the motor (over only a portion of its total travel, customizable bite point, too) with no regen when being used.

Every time I bring up this idea, people call me an idiot and say stupid things like “EVs don’t need gears!” I know they don’t need gears, there are no gears in this proposed setup. It is, for all intents and purposes, exactly like taking the Logitech G27 wheel setup and sticking it in a car. Just like in Gran Tourismo where your inputs control how fast the in-game car goes (there are no real gears there either), you would just be controlling how fast the electric motor goes (which is already done with the accelerator pedal, I’m just adding artificial limits with the fake gear shift and a variable cut-off with the fake clutch pedal).

Best of all, since there are no actual mechanical components, with the press of a button (preferably under a flip-up flap on the top of the gear shift) it can go into fully automatic mode. Hell, you could throw on flappy paddles and simulate a sequential gearbox, too, no need to use the clutch pedal in that mode! I’m not even asking for this to be free, I’ll pay for it. I don’t expect to pay thousands of dollars, though, since it is almost all software!