Energy Efficiency Quest Influences Transmission Technology

Mon, 09/01/2014 - 12:09

Efficiency in CO2 emissions and fuel economy have become important topics for OEMs. In order to reach their self-set or mandatory CO2 emission reduction targets, companies are considering different approaches. This is where TREMEC steps in. The American manufacturer of transmissions tackles CO2 emissions and fuel economy together by investing in new technology for its products, covering both matters. TREMEC has R&D underway at its Mexican and Belgian plants. Mexico oversees the development of mechanical subsystems and parts while mechatronics and software are researched in Belgium. The company has already innovated in typical manual transmissions to reduce CO2 emissions by reducing the overall weight of the transmissions, helping to improve fuel efficiency. “The transmissions we make today are much lighter than the transmissions made ten years ago. The ones we will make tomorrow will likely be even lighter still,” says Robert Neal, CEO of TREMEC.

Another angle for the CO2 emission issue is the development of new types of transmissions. The acquisition of a mechatronics group in Loppen, Belgium, at the end of 2011, led TREMEC to start producing automated manual transmissions (AMT) and dual clutch transmissions (DCT). “AMT and DCT offer great benefits over traditional transmissions and are focused on different markets and consumers,” Neal explains, while adding that both can be compared to automatic transmissions. AMT transmissions shift on a prescribed schedule which makes the engine operate efficiently. The difference with automatic transmissions is that the user will feel the shifts, while AMT also sees certain losses in the torque converter. DCT takes care of the shifting without the user feeling it, making DCT closer to automatic transmission. Neal states that this ease of shifting gives DCT the efficiency of a gear set without suffering the hydraulic losses that occur in automatic transmissions. “We would like the DCT being developed by TREMEC to get the market excited. It brings good fuel efficiency and value to the OEM, meaning that it will make a real difference in their transmissions.”

Whatever Neal’s aspirations are, the use of each type of technology will be determined by the market. In Europe, transmissions have gone from manual to DCT, but in North America these have gone from manual to automatic. These decisions are based on the preference of the drivers, which means TREMEC has to educate the market on what to expect each time it comes up with a new transmission technology. Regardless, technological transmission advances are hitting the market. Neal states that passenger cars in North America will soon have access to DCT while light commercial vehicles or commercial vehicles will start with AMT and eventually move to DCT.