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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.]

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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ZF opens passenger car transmission plant in the US; emphasis on 9-speed automatics

July 26, 2013

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Manufacturing 8-speed automatics at Gray Court. Click to enlarge.

ZF Friedrichshafen AG has officially opened its new plant for automatic passenger car transmissions in the US. Located in South Carolina, ZF Transmissions Gray Court, LLC will produce about 1.2 million transmissions at this plant annually; this includes 400,000 8-speed and 800,000 9-speed automatic transmissions (earlier post). The new plant expands the existing capacities at the Saarbrücken location to produce 8-speed automatic transmissions.

So far, ZF has invested around €300 million (US$399 million) in building the new location, which is around 130 kilometers (81 miles) north-west of Columbia. A total of approx. €450 million (US$598 million) is planned for investment into the new location—the largest single investment in the almost century-long history of ZF, emphasized Dr. Konstantin Sauer, ZF Board Member responsible for finance and the North American region.

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Oerlikon Graziano launches 4-speed electric drive; up to 15% efficiency increase

July 25, 2013

Transmission specialist Oerlikon Graziano, part of Oerlikon’s Drive Systems Segment, is presenting its 4SED (4 Speed Electric Drive) (earlier post) to customers around Europe. This new compact, lightweight transmission offers increased efficiency, smooth shifting and a scalable design making it suitable for a wide range of vehicle types.

The 4SED, based on Graziano’s original eDCT (electric dual clutch transmission), uses two traction motors in a very compact package which provides four speeds to allow running closer to peak efficiency. The result is an overall efficiency improvement of up to 15%, which translates into increased range or improved performance for the vehicle. The mechanical design concept was developed by Oerlikon Graziano, while the shift control system was engineered by UK controls specialist Vocis Driveline.

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Mercedes-Benz introduces 9G-TRONIC 9-speed on E350 BlueTEC

July 24, 2013

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9G-TRONIC. Click to enlarge.

Mercedes-Benz’ new E350 BlueTEC features as standard the new 9G-TRONIC, the first rear-wheel drive nine-speed automatic transmission with torque converter. The 9G-TRONIC is suitable for rear-wheel and all-wheel drives as well as hybrid and plug-in hybrid drive systems and will be used in almost all model series and engines in the coming years.

The E350 with 9G-TRONIC is equipped with a 185 kW (252 hp) V6 diesel engine and delivers NEDC fuel consumption of 5.3 liters of diesel per 100 km (44.4 mpg US). The reduced fuel consumption of the E 350 BlueTEC with 9G-TRONIC compared to prior models has primarily been achieved as a result of the high level of efficiency of the transmission. As part of this, the broad ratio spread of 9.15 for gears one to nine enables a perceptible reduction in engine speed and is a decisive factor behind the high level of energy efficiency and ride comfort.

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New 2014 Toyota Corolla brings Valvematic, new CVT to North America; up to >40 mpg highway

June 07, 2013

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2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco. Click to enlarge.

Toyota unveiled the 2014 Toyota Corolla—the 11th generation of the car. With nearly 40 million units sold, the Toyota Corolla is the world’s best-selling car nameplate; this year marks its 47th year on the market.

The 2014 Corolla is available in four distinct grades: L, LE, S, and the new LE Eco grade. The LE Eco grade is differentiated by a more efficient 140-horsepower, 1.8-liter engine with Valvematic technology; improved aerodynamics; and low rolling resistance tires. The Corolla Eco-badged models will achieve an estimated highway fuel economy rating of more than 40 mpg (5.88 l/100km) due to to the new Valvematic engine combined with a newly developed Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).

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Oerlikon and Continental to cooperate on motor and transmission systems for hybrid & electric vehicles

May 28, 2013

Swiss high-tech industrial Group Oerlikon and international automotive supplier Continental have entered into an agreement to cooperate on the development and marketing of integrated axle drive motor and transmission systems for hybrid and electric vehicles featuring optimized overall powertrain efficiency.

Oerlikon Graziano SpA will contribute its know-how in the development, production and design of high-performance transmissions, while Continental’s Powertrain Division will bring to the table its expertise in the development of conventional, hybrid and all-electric passenger car powertrains.

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Vocis launching demo EV with 2nd generation multi-speed transmission; projected 15% improvement in vehicle efficiency

April 30, 2013

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2nd generation eDCT prototype unit, with both motors mounted at the same end of the transmission. Source: Vocis. Click to enlarge.

During the coming month, UK-based transmission engineering and control specialist Vocis will launch an electric demonstrator vehicle fitted with the second generation of its multi-speed eDCT transmission for electric vehicles. The demonstration vehicle, a Mercedes-Benz Vito minibus, will be made available for evaluation by interested parties from industry and the press.

The 4-speed dual-motor Vocis eDCT concept (earlier post) uses the principles of dual clutch transmissions (DCTs) to provide seamless shifting and up to 15% improvement in electric vehicle efficiency over the combined European cycle compared to a single speed gearbox Vocis transmission. The second-generation unit has been developed with partial funding from the Niche Vehicle Network and was shortlisted for an SMMT Automotive Innovation award in 2012.

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