Photo: Stefan Baldauf

We’ve seen lots of spy shots and even videos of the mid-engine Corvette prototypes running around but almost all of them seem to point to the use of a dual-clutch transmission. While we don’t have any concrete, confirmed details on the powertrain yet, a new patent application from General Motors may show how a manual transmission could be implemented.

This application, titled “electric slave cylinder for manually shifted vehicles,” shows how clutch-by-wire could be implemented to operate a manual transmission without having to run hydraulic lines.

The most obvious application for such a system would be a vehicle with an engine and transmission behind the driver, as it would the use of a manual transmission without having to run a hydraulic line to the rear from the clutch master cylinder which is usually directly in front of the clutch pedal.

In a traditional application for a hydraulic clutch system, a clutch pedal is mounted to the firewall with the clutch master cylinder directly in front of it. A hydraulic line extends from this master cylinder to the clutch slave cylinder, which is mounted on the transmission in order to actuate the clutch.

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When the pedal is pressed, hydraulic pressure is built and sent down the line in order to move the clutch and shift gears.

In the system shown in the patent application, a sensor is mounted on the clutch pedal which send an electronic signal to an actuator mounted on the electronic slave cylinder in the transmission in order to move the clutch plate. This allows for installation of transmission far away from the clutch pedal without worry of a long hydraulic line.

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There are other methods of installing a manual transmission in the rear of a car, and they have been implemented on many recent cars such as the previous generation Ford GT, but the electronic system would allow for more flexibility.

Another benefit of an electronically-operated slave cylinder is that it would be possible to give control to a computer for certain operations such as stop and go traffic in order to prevent fatigue and the patent application even lists that as one of the benefits of such a system along with having a consistent feel even over longer periods of time which is not possible with a hydraulic system.

The system may seem like yet another method of of taking control away from the driver but, it may actually be a savior for the manual transmission as it could take away the mundane tasks of clutching in and out while in stop and go traffic while making it somewhat future-proof by bringing it into the network of modules that can be centrally controlled by one of the cars computers.

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But remember, it’s just a patent. It may not go anywhere. For now, it’s an interesting piece of tech and I’m eager to see if GM does anything with it.