Lexus introduces Multi Stage Hybrid System on LC 500h

Lexus LC 500h transparent front
The inner workings of the Lexus LC 500h, outfitted with the manufacturer’s new hybrid transmission system.

At this year’s North American Auto Show, Lexus broke the news on its latest flagship luxury sports coupe, the LC 500. Then in February, the automaker made another big announcement: a hybrid version, the LC 500h, will also be released, using a Multi Stage Hybrid System (MSHS). What exactly is that, and why is it important? We thought you’d never ask.

Lexus Multi Stage Hybrid badge

On many of the hybrids commonly seen, including the existing models made by Toyota, the electric motor is paired to a gearless continuously variable transmission (CVT). Sensors constantly monitor how fast the vehicle is travelling, what the road surface is like and what the driver is doing with the steering wheel and throttle in order to choose the most efficient engine speed for any given situation.

Lexus LC 500h transmission

While efficient, some people point out operating a car equipped with a pure CVT feels less spirited due to the lack of a perceived “kick” when shifts are made on a traditional manual or automatic transmission. And this is precisely where the MSHS comes in.

Lexus says they created the new system to introduce a sportier and more engaging driving experience, while still maintaining the best possible balance of power and fuel consumption.

Lexus LC 500h tranmission cutout graphic

To do so, a powertrain consisting of a 3.5-litre V6 gasoline engine, an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery has been mated to a CVT — with the addition of a four-speed automatic gearbox with actual gears added at the end of the transmission, providing a more direct acceleration response when the throttle is engaged. Both the electric motor and the battery have been lightened compared to the manufacturer’s current hybrid hardware so the weight of the MSHS is actually the same.

Lexus LC 500h rear

To make things even more interesting, an M mode (for manual, presumably) is available, the first for a Lexus hybrid. This allows the driver to assume control of the shifting duties for the 354 net horsepower vehicle, which has a claimed 0-100 km/h time of less than five seconds. 

More info to come as the LC 500h officially debuts at the 2016 Geneva Auto Show this week.

Posted by Benjamin Yong

Benjamin Yong is a freelance journalist and communications professional living in Richmond, B.C. He is often found writing about cars and the auto industry, amongst other things, or driving around in his work-in-progress 1990 Mazda MX-5. Twitter: @b_yong Instagram: @popuplights