Automakers are tackling fuel economy in every way imaginable. Today, we’re talking about Volkswagen’s new ten-speed transmission.
The world’s first production-vehicle, Mercedes-Benz’s 1885 Benz Patent-Motorwagen, was graced with a single-speed transmission and a belt-clutch, but not much more. Of course, at something like 0.9 hp, this was all that was necessary to get the Motorwagen in motion. Today’s cars, some of them pushing over 1,000 hp, need multi-gear transmissions for at least a couple of reasons.
For example, if you had a single gear in the 1 MW Koenigsegg Agera One:1, you’d snap your neck or break the car, or both. Multi-gear transmissions allow for smooth acceleration from a stop, a necessity to avoid personal injury or equipment damage. Secondly, multi-gear transmissions help to keep the engine in its most-efficient range, which is why my old three-speed Jeep Wrangler got worse fuel economy than an eight-speed Lexus LS460.
Of course, when the first six-speed transmissions appeared, and then seven-, eight-, and even nine-speed transmissions came along, we had to wonder where it was all headed. Of course, the more “speeds,” that is, gear ratios that a transmission has, the closer those gear ratios are to each other. This means there is less rpm difference between two gears which, in turn, means that the engine can stay in its most-efficient power band. Finally, this helps the vehicle accelerate better and deliver better fuel economy. Interestingly, ten was the magic number that GM and Ford was heading for, but we haven’t seen anything from them, yet.
The nine-speed transmission is officially a thing of the past, with the introduction of Volkswagen’s new ten-speed DSG (dual-clutch) automated manual transmission. Automating this new gearbox will keep shift confusion to a minimum, and should help Volkswagen meet its goals of improving fuel economy by 15% by 2020. Volkswagen hasn’t said which car it will debut on, but its design allow for longitudinal or transverse mounting, making it pretty universal in application, perhaps even future electric vehicles?