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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

Chevy’s Cruze Diesel: a compact diesel contender in the US

September 08, 2014

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The Cruze Diesel is identified by a discreet badge on the trunk. Click to enlarge.

US buyers hunting for a non-premium diesel passenger car (i.e., not a truck or SUV, and not a vehicle from BMW, Audi, Porsche or Mercedes-Benz) have until recently only had Volkswagen-brand cars as an option: Beetle, Golf, Jetta, Passat. Accordingly, Volkswagen of America (VoA) diesel sales to date in 2014 represent slightly north of 23% of all Volkswagen of America sales. In August, Jetta posted 3,988 diesels sales (26% of Jetta sales, while Passat TDI sales were 2,767 units, representing 30.1% of sales of the vehicle.

However, Chevrolet is trying to challenge that passenger car diesel hegemony with the compact Cruze Diesel, introduced for MY 2014, and now with a facelift for MY 2015. (Earlier post.) Chevrolet is positioning the Cruze, which features a US-modified 2.0L diesel from GM’s European lineup (the engine is manufactured in Kaiserslautern, Germany) to challenge Jetta on the basis of highway fuel economy and power, as well as content. Based on a week with the car (MY2014), the claimed fuel economy superiority may be tough to realize in real-world driving (especially in the face of the new, more fuel-efficient diesel in the 2015 Jetta, earlier post) but overall, the Cruze Diesel is a worthy challenger, and a very good and thrifty drive, especially on the highway.

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Details on GM’s new efficient top-end 8-speed automatic

August 21, 2014

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2015 Hydra-Matic 8L90 (M5U) Eight Speed RWD Automatic Transaxle Click to enlarge.

GM is offering a version of its new GM-developed Hydra-Matic 8L90 paddle-shift eight-speed automatic transmission in the 2015 Corvette Stingray (earlier post) and Z06. The 8L90, the replacement for the venerable 6L80 six-speed in GM’s lineup, is offered as well as standard on 2015 Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra and GMC Yukon Denali/Yukon XL Denali models equipped with the 6.2L EcoTec3 V-8 (L86) (earlier post), and on the Cadillac Escalade and Escalade ESV. The rated turbine torque capacity of the new transmission is 1000 N·m (738 lb-ft).

GM’s objectives in developing the new 8-speed were improved fuel economy, performance, and NVH—while staying in the footprint of the 6L80. The eight-speed powerflow yields a 7.0 overall ratio spread, enabling improved launch capability because of a deeper first gear ratio and better fuel economy due to lower top gear N/V capability, relative to the 6L80.

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Allison Transmission unveils integrated stop-start technology for Cummins ETHOS E-85 engine

July 21, 2014

Allison Transmission Holdings Inc. announced new integrated stop-start technology in conjunction with Project ETHOS, an ultra-low carbon powertrain program created by Cummins Inc. to demonstrate the potential of alternative fuels for carbon dioxide (CO2) reductions in medium-duty commercial vehicles.

The Cummins ETHOS 2.8L engine is designed specifically to use E-85 (85% ethanol and 15% gasoline). To take full advantage of the favorable combustion attributes and potential of E-85, the engine operates at diesel-like cylinder pressures and incorporates advanced spark-ignition technology. It delivers the power (up to 250 hp / 186 kW) and peak torque (up to 450 lb-ft / 610 N·m) of gasoline and diesel engines nearly twice its 2.8-liter displacement. (Earlier post.)

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Ram introduces Doblò-based 2015 Ram ProMaster City van

June 27, 2014

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2015 Ram ProMaster City. Click to enlarge.

Chrysler’s Ram brand introduced the 2015 Ram ProMaster City commercial van. The Ram ProMaster City is based on the Fiat Doblò, a two-time International Van of the Year winner with more than 1.3 million units sold. The new, smaller van joins the ProMaster and Ram Cargo vans, and is intended to provide incremental growth for Ram’s brand sales volumes.

The front-wheel drive 2015 Ram ProMaster City will be offered in two-seat cargo van and five-seat passenger wagon configurations and is powered by the 2.4-liter Tigershark I-4. The engine generates 178 hp (133 kW) at 6,400 rpm with peak torque of 174 lb-ft (236 N·m) at 3,900 rpm.

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Volvo Trucks launches dual-clutch transmission for heavy-duty trucks

June 17, 2014

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I-Shift Dual Clutch provides seamless power delivery. Click to enlarge.

Volvo Trucks is now launching I-Shift Dual Clutch, the first transmission on the market with a dual clutch system for heavy vehicles. With power-shift gear changes without any interruption in power delivery (with the exception of the range-change, which takes place when shifting from 6th to 7th gear), the 12-speed transmission maintains torque, and the truck does not lose any speed during gear changes. For the driver, the result is more comfortable and efficient progress on the road.

Transmissions with dual clutches are already used in cars, but Volvo Trucks is the first manufacturer to offer a similar solution for series-produced heavy vehicles. Volvo Trucks says that fuel consumption with the base I-Shift Dual Clutch is the same as with regular I-Shift. The company is offering two software packages to improve fuel economy with the unit:

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Kinetics Drive Solutions and Efacec collaborate on electric bus propulsion systems

May 28, 2014

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Kinetics’ NexDrive EV3-850 + PowerPhase HD electric drive system. Click to enlarge.

Kinetics Drive Solutions Inc. and Portugal-based Efacec Electric Mobility, S.A. are collaborating to deliver full-vehicle propulsion systems for electric buses. This solution is engineered to provide bus OEMs a fully integrated and optimized system that can be implemented on various platforms with minimal engineering development. Efacec’s first electric bus with the NexDrive solution will be deployed for field operation in July.

In April, UQM Technologies Inc. and Kinetics announced their collaboration to offer an integrated electric motor and multi-speed transmission system for commercial vehicle applications (earlier post); that system is used in the Kinetics/Efacec solution.

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Fallbrook and TEAM to commercialize NuVinci CVT for low- to medium-speed vehicle by late 2015 or early 2016

May 09, 2014

Fallbrook Technologies Inc., inventor of the NuVinci continuously variable planetary (CVP) transmission technology (earlier post), and TEAM Industries (TEAM) plan for the near-term commercialization of NuVinci technology in a transmission suitable for a small, low- to medium-speed vehicle. Initial production units should be available by the end of 2015 or early 2016.

TEAM is the exclusive licensee of NuVinci CVP technology in North America and Europe for electric and gasoline light vehicle applications. Fallbrook and TEAM have been working since 2011 to validate the benefits of the NuVinci technology for TEAM’s products. (Earlier post.)

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UQM Technologies and Kinetics Drive Solutions collaborate on electric drive systems for all-electric commercial vehicles

April 23, 2014

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EV3-850 combined with PowerPhase HD220. Click to enlarge.

UQM Technologies Inc. and Kinetics Drive Solutions Inc. are collaborating to offer an integrated electric motor and multi-speed transmission system for commercial vehicle applications that will benefit from a full system approach. This system is engineered to provide commercial vehicle manufacturers with an efficient electric drive powertrain while minimizing the development time for integration.

Advantages for customers will be a fully integrated and calibrated system that allows quicker time to market and reduced development time and cost, as well as fewer engineering variables. Systems will feature UQM PowerPhase HD electric motors and controllers combined with Kinetics NexDrive transmissions.

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Subaru introduces 5th-gen AWD Outback with up to 10% improvement in fuel economy

April 17, 2014

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2015 Outback. Click to enlarge.

Subaru of America, Inc. introduced the 5th-generation 2015 Outback. The 2015 all-wheel drive Outback offers the roomiest interior, most capable chassis and highest fuel-efficiency in the model’s 20-year history.

New for 2015, all Outback models come standard with the Lineartronic CVT (continuously variable transmission), which features paddle-shift control switches and is instrumental in the Outback’s significantly improved fuel economy. Manufacturer-estimated ratings of 25 mpg city / 33 mpg highway / 28 mpg combined (9.4, 7.1 and 8.4 l/100 lm, respectively) for the Outback 2.5i model are up from 24/30/26 (9.8, 7.8 and 9.0 l/100 km, respectively) in the 2014 model—a 7.7% improvement in the combined figure.

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Torotrak-led consortium wins $4M towards manufacturability of core variable drive technologies

April 02, 2014

A consortium of British high-technology companies led by Torotrak PLC has won £2.4 million (US$4 million) in funding from the UK government’s Technology Strategy Board towards the development of an optimized manufacturing route for key components of the company’s variable drive systems.

Called S-CONTACCT, the program, with a total project value of £3.8 million (US$6.3 million), will establish new manufacturing processes for the traction drive disks and rollers at the heart of Torotrak’s portfolio of automotive CO2 and fuel consumption reduction technologies, which includes variable drive superchargers; infinitely variable toroidal transmissions; and an advanced flywheel kinetic energy recovery system (KERS).

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Inside the fuel-efficient 9-speed 9G-TRONIC from Mercedes-Benz

March 06, 2014

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Design of the Mercedes-Benz automatic transmission 9G-TRONIC. Click to enlarge.

Mercedes-Benz’ new 9-speed 9G-TRONIC, the first rear-wheel drive nine-speed automatic transmission with torque converter, is making its debut in the E 350 BlueTEC as the standard transmission paired with the 185 kW (252 hp) V6 diesel. Announced in 2013 (earlier post), the 9G-TRONIC represents the seventh automatic transmission generation from Mercedes-Benz.

The E 350 BlueTEC offers an average NEDC fuel consumption (sedan model) of 5.3 liters of diesel per 100 km (44.4 mpg US). While an overall reduction in engine speed improves NVH comfort and also cuts down external noise by up to 4 dB(A), the reduced fuel consumption of the E 350 BlueTEC with 9G-TRONIC has primarily been achieved as a result of the high efficiency level of the transmission, Mercedes says.

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Jeep introduces new Renegade small SUV; segment-first 9-speed transmission

March 04, 2014

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2015 Jeep Renegade. Click to enlarge.

Jeep unveiled the new 2015 Jeep Renegade small SUV at the Geneva Motor Show. Designed for global markets, the Renegade offers 16 powertrain combinations globally and the segment’s first nine-speed automatic transmission.

Leveraging 4x4 technology from the new Jeep Cherokee, the Renegade offers a full-time 4x4 system (Jeep Active Drive) and a full-time 4x4 system with 20:1 crawl ratio (Jeep Active Drive Low) The Renegade is also the first small SUV to feature a disconnecting rear axle and power take-off unit (PTU) (earlier post) to provide Jeep Renegade 4x4 models with enhanced fuel economy. The system instantly engages when 4x4 traction is needed.

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Kia introduces new mild hybrid powertrain, 7-speed DCT

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Kia’s 48V mild hybrid system uses a lead-carbon battery. Click to enlarge.

Kia revealed a new mild hybrid powertrain as well as its new 7-speed DCT at the Geneva Motor Show. (Earlier post.) Developed by Kia’s European R&D centre, the new hybrid system employs a 48V lead-carbon battery, which powers a small electric motor to increase the engine’s power output and cut exhaust emissions. The mild hybrid powertrain will be available on new diesel and gasoline production cars from Kia in the near future.

The development team behind the mild hybrid powertrain selected lead-carbon batteries over lithium-ion equivalents as they require no active cooling, are more easily recyclable at the end of the vehicle’s life and can function much more efficiently in sub-zero temperatures.

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Flybrid flywheel KERS to be integrated into a manual gearbox by Lotus-led consortium

February 27, 2014

The UK’s Technology Strategy Board has awarded Torotrak, in collaboration with lead technology partner Lotus Cars, a grant to develop a new application of the Flybrid KERS (kinetic energy recovery system) technology for integration into a manual gearbox. (Torotrak completed its acquisition of Flybrid in January. Earlier post.)

The project is valued at £4.3 million (US$7.2 million) to the consortium members and will be part-funded by the Technology Strategy Board grant, with a value of works undertaken by the Torotrak Group directly of approximately £0.7 million (US$1.2 million) over the course of the project. It will run for approximately 24 months from its commencement in the second quarter of 2014 and will see the lightweight, race-proven Flybrid KERS technology installed into one of Lotus’s signature performance road cars.

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Update on Nissan’s 1-motor, 2-clutch hybrid system

February 20, 2014

Nissan’s 1-motor, 2-clutch parallel hybrid system (1M2CL), first introduced in 2010 for the rear-wheel drive Infiniti M35 Hybrid (earlier post), has since grown into its second-generation rear-wheel drive system as well as spawned a front-wheel drive variant with CVT (earlier post). The system and its offshoots are now applied in 4 Infiniti and Nissan hybrid vehicles—Q50, Q70, QX60 and Pathfinder.

At the recent SAE 2014 Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Technologies Symposium, Tomoaki Momose, manager of powertrain development from Nissan Technical Center North America, gave an update on the technical evolution of the core hybrid system.

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New 3-speed EV powertrain to offer 10-15% improvement in EV range

February 19, 2014

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Compared to a single-speed EV or HEV transmission, DSD’s MSYS 3-speed system provides a 40% weight saving and 10-15% lower energy consumption. Click to enlarge.

UK-based Drive System Design is developing a new EV powertrain based on an alternate approach to powershifting (no torque interrupt) achieved by separating the existing functions of a synchronizer. The integrated design of an axial flux YASA motor (earlier post) with the multi-speed transmission contributes to simplification of the motor cooling system, electrical architecture and powertrain control system.

The MSYS system can mean a 10-15% improvement in the range of electric vehicles, the company says. (Earlier post.) The company was recently showcased at the Cleantech Innovate 2014 event by the UK’s LowCVP organization (Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership), along with 7 other companies. DSD was the winner of a LowCVP commendation as the most impressive of the road transport-focused entries.

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Magnetic eCVT could replace conventional hybrid mechanical eCVT with likely 1-2% fuel economy improvement and other benefits

February 12, 2014

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MAGSPLIT is intended to replace mechanical eCVTs with a combination motor/magnetic gear. Source: Magnomatics. Click to enlarge.

At the SAE 2014 Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Technologies Symposium in San Diego, Chris Kirby, founder and Managing Director of UK-based Magnomatics, presented an overview of the company’s second-generation MAGSPLIT (Magnetic Power Split) eCVT system, a compact magnetic transmission designed to replace both the mechanical planetary gearset and motor/generator that form a typical hybrid powersplit system.

Preliminary testing results of a prototype of the magnetic eCVT presented at the conference suggest a likely 1-2% improvement in fuel consumption compared to a conventional hybrid system, along with the benefits of reduced system complexity, no lubrication, low battery charge swing (allowing either downsizing the battery or extending the life of the original size) and compact packaging. Much further testing and optimization remains to be done, Kirby noted.

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Honda recalls Fit Hybrids and Vezel Hybrids in Japan; 3rd recall due to problems with 7-speed DCT

February 10, 2014

Honda Motor Co., Ltd. announced a voluntary recall of the all-new Fit Hybrid (earlier post) and Vezel Hybrid (earlier post) produced in Japan from July 2013 through February 2014 due to a problem with the software program controlling the 7-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT) which could cause non-engagement of gears, a delay in the ability to begin driving or the inability to move at all. Honda notified Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of the recall with a total recall population of 81,353 units.

Honda conducted two earlier recalls in October and December 2013 due to a defect with the software program controlling the 7-speed DCT which could have caused a delay in the ability to drive the vehicle or the inability to drive. This latest recall is this the third related to problems with the 7-speed DCT. Each recall was due to a different cause.

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DOE to award $49.4M for advanced vehicle technologies research; meeting Tier 3 emissions

January 22, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award $49.4 million to projects to to accelerate research and development of new vehicle technologies. The new program-wide funding opportunity (DE-FOA-0000991) (earlier post), was announced by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz at the Washington Auto Show.

The funding opportunity will contains a total of 13 areas of interest in the general areas of advanced light-weighting; advanced battery development; power electronics; advanced heating, ventilation, air conditioning systems; advanced powertrains (including the ability to meet proposed EPA Tier 3 tailpipe emissions standards); and fuels and lubricants. These areas of interest apply to light, medium and heavy duty on-road vehicles.

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New Chrysler 200 mid-size sedan features standard nine speed transmission, expected 35 mpg highway

January 14, 2014

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2015 Chrysler 200. Click to enlarge.

Chrysler introduced the revamped new 2015 Chrysler 200 mid-size sedan at the Detroit Auto Show. The mid-size sedan segment is one of the largest segments in North America, with more than 2 million sales annually. The 200 is the industry’s first mid-size sedan with a standard nine-speed automatic transmission, which enables expected highway fuel economy ratings of 35 mpgUS (6.7 l/100 km) when coupled with the 2.4-liter MultiAir2 Tigershark I-4 engine.

The standard Tigershark engine delivers 184 horsepower (137 kW) and 173 lb-ft (235 N·m) of torque, equating to horsepower improvements of 6% and torque improvements of 10% compared with the outgoing four-cylinder engine, with an overall fuel economy improvement of 13%. In addition to the standard 2.4-liter MultiAir2 Tigershark I-4 engine, a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine is available, which delivers 295 horsepower (220 kW) and 262 lb-ft (355 N·m) of torque.

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DOE to issue FY14 Vehicle Technologies program-wide funding opportunity announcement

December 20, 2013

The Department Of Energy (DOE), Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) intends to issue, on behalf of its Vehicle Technology Office (VTO), a program-wide Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000991) for fiscal year 2014 on or about January 2014. The advance notice (DE-FOA-0001053) is to alert interested parties of the coming FOA.

The areas of interest outlined in the notice of intent (NOI) fall into two broad categories: technologies to advance plug-in electric vehicles; and technologies to improve fuel efficiency, including dual-fuel, fuel properties (e.g., high octane fuels), and advanced powertrain work.

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Volvo Trucks announces XE11 fuel efficiency package for 11L North American engines; up to 3% improvement in fuel efficiency

October 15, 2013

Volvo Trucks expanded its XE (exceptional efficiency, earlier post) powertrain package lineup with the introduction of XE11 for its 11-liter Volvo D11 engine. Available on Volvo VNM and VNL models and rated up to 80,000 lbs. GCWR, XE11 is suited for less-than-truckload, distribution, bulk haul and other regional applications. The powertrain package improves fuel efficiency by up to 3%.

Volvo first introduced XE packages for its 13-liter D13 and 16-liter D16 engines. To date, more than 24% of all Volvo-powered trucks ordered in 2013 also feature XE powertrain packages. The XE11 package includes the following components:

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Chrysler Group files S-1 for IPO; snapshot of R&D priorities; exploring a light-duty hydraulic hybrid

September 24, 2013

Chrysler Group LLC has filed a registration statement on Form S-1 with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) relating to a proposed initial public offering of common shares. Details of the offering—i.e., number of shares and price range—are yet to be determined.

However, the document not only provides a detailed look at the finances of the company, it also provides a quick recap of recent technology developments and some insight into the company’s immediate research priorities. Chrysler writes that its has “made the development of more fuel-efficient vehicles a priority to meet retail consumer preferences, comply with future regulations and as part of our commitment to sustainability.

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DSD 3-speed EV transmission with Oxford YASA axial flux motor to be integrated in Range Rover Evoque_e research vehicle

September 09, 2013

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Compared to a single-speed EV or HEV transmission, DSD’s MSYS 3-speed system provides a 40% weight saving and 10-15% lower energy consumption. Click to enlarge.

Specialist engineering consultancy Drive System Design (DSD) has been named as a member of the £16-million, 27-month Evoque_e program (earlier post) to develop new modular hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery-electric vehicle (BEV) technology.

DSD will be responsible for integrating high speed E-machines, clutches and clutch strategies associated with torque management and delivery to the wheels. The pure electric research vehicle will feature the company’s novel MSYS multi-speed traction system developed by DSD and Oxford YASA Motors (earlier post), which incorporates a three-speed powershifting gearbox and axial flux motor.

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