Suzuki Hayaubsa semi-automatic transmission

Suzuki has filed multiple patent applications for a semi-automatic transmission system that may find its way on the next generation Hayabusa. Suzuki has filed three patents dealing with different aspects of the technology, filing each in Japan, the U.S. and in Germany.

The patents are credited to Hideaki Takahashi, who has several other patents related to Suzuki transmissions. The patents describe the use of actuators to control the clutch engagement and the shifting of gears, and, unlike Honda‘s DCT which uses paddle shifters, a traditional foot-controlled shift pedal. The result is a semi-automatic transmission, specifically, an automated manual transmission (AMT). The patents focus on the positioning of the actuators to make efficient use of space while also allowing them to be cooled by airflow.

The clutch actuator (#41) is located behind the crankcase while the shift actuator (#42) is positioned above it. The long cylindrical portions (#411 and #421) are motors controlled by an ECU.

Flicking the shift pedal sends a signal to the ECU to initiate a gear change. To provide some tactile feedback to the rider, the patent describes a “clicking mechanism” to simulate the feel of a traditional manual gear shift.

As with most manual transmission bikes, gear shifting is controlled by the left pedal (#52). In this semi-automatic system, a shift sensor (#51) reads the pedal input and relays information to the ECU. Suzuki added a clicking mechanism to this shift-by-wire system to provide some tactile feedback for the rider.

While the patents state the concepts can be applied to other motorcycles or potentially other types of vehicles, they all use an illustration of the Hayabusa as the example. Before we go any farther, let’s go over the usual caveats: 1) ideas in patents don’t always make their way into production; 2) if they do get used, there’s no set timeline from when patents are filed to when they enter production; and 3) drawings used in patents may just be for illustrative purposes and don’t always represent a future product.

The Hayabusa was first introduced in 1999 and last updated for 2008. With its days numbered due to Euro 4 regulations, an update is expected for 2019 which would be its 20th anniversary.

Regarding that last point, the drawings in the patents depict the current Hayabusa (a.k.a. the GSX1300R in some markets) with a similar-looking engine, frame, and distinctive tail design. The current Hayabusa was first introduced in 2008 with only minor technical revisions since, and it’s possible this semi-automatic transmission could be applied to the current model. Remember, however, that the current Hayabusa does not comply with Euro 4 regulations and will soon no longer be a allowed to be sold in Europe.

A replacement is thus expected to come for 2019, with various rumors predicting a displacement change to 1440cc or the addition of a turbocharger. The larger displacement would make some sense, bringing the Hayabusa closer to its closest competitor, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R. The turbo rumors seem less likely to us, as Suzuki has previously hinted at applying the technology to mid-sized engines rather than its largest Inline-Four. A semi-automatic transmission may be more likely than a turbo, benefiting from optimized gear shifting and higher efficiency.

We’ll have to wait to see if/and when Suzuki introduces a new Hayabusa, and whether it will use this semi-automatic transmission system. The current model will no longer be allowed to be sold in Europe after Dec. 31, 2018, so we could see a replacement during the fall motorcycle show season as a 2019 model. Incidentally, 2019 will represent the 20th anniversary of the Hayabusa, so we can expect other significant changes for a new model.