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Transmission gear-adding race is coming to an end

By FaezClutchless on 23 Jul 2012

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In the last decade or so, most cars have either a four-speed or five-speed automatic transmission fitted in them. Nowadays, many automakers are using six, seven and eight speed automatic transmission. And even a nine and ten speed auto gearbox is on its way.

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Some people might ask; when will this gear-adding mania come to an end? Apparently, the answer is soon; according to German transmission producer, ZF. Julio Caspari, ZFs North American president, has said that ZF and other transmission makers started the gear-adding race due to aid in engine efficiency, allowing cars to run at lower engine speeds.

But these incremental gains are becoming insignificant. According to Caspari, the companys current eight-speed automatic transmission is only eleven percent more efficient than its six-speed automatic transmission.

Currently, many luxury automakers are using versions of ZFs eight-speed, including BMW across its model range and Chrysler uses them for their 300 sedan. Chrysler is also planning to use a nine-speed automatic transmission for its upcoming Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger midsize sedan replacement.

Some time last year, Hyundai announced that they are developing a ten-speed automatic transmission which they planned to use on future versions of the Genesis, Equus and also probably the Kia K9 (which shares similar mechanical parts).

If a ten-speed automatic transmission does arrive, whats next? Heading to an eleven, twelve or any higher number transmission could add cost and complexity without any realised gains in fuel efficiency that automakers are searching for as they prepare for mounting Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations from the US federal government which is set to go up to 54.5 mpg by 2025.

Eventually, one day all of this will come to an end and automakers might go down the route of continuous variable auto transmissions (CVT), just like Nissan in most of its models. Instead of using a fixed number of gears, the Nissan transmission uses a chain-link belt that shuffles across two cone-shaped pulleys to give a nearly infinite variability, instead of fixed gears.

The gear-adding race is expected to come to an end soon or at least it will tone down a little. With Hyundai and ZF still in the midst of developing transmission with more gears, this race might go on for another decade or so. Anyway, soon is, after all, a relative word.

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Written by FaezClutchless
Some say that his blood is actually RON98 petrol and some say that his right foot weighs over 20kg. But all that we know about Faez is that he loves to drive and is a JDM enthusiast.

  • 1
Lazymayday Jul 24 2012 02:00 PM
next war on cvt efficiency?
  • 1
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