The future for a new breed of automatic transmissions—manual gearboxes that shift themselves—is bright according to the folks at Germany’s Getrag (Untergruppenbach, Germany; www.getrag.de). According to their figures, the market for automatic transmissions will continue to grow, especially in Asia and Europe. Though Asia will rely on traditional automatic transmissions and continuously variable transmissions (CVTs), Europe is expected to increasingly move toward dual-clutch transmission (DCT) for their shiftless drivers.
DCTs have two input shafts—one for odd numbered gears and one for even numbered gears—and a single output shaft. Gears are pre-selected up or down the range and the clutches on each input shaft are progressively engaged and disengaged to seamlessly transfer power. “There will be a market from DCTs across the model range, from minicars to SUVs,” says Bernd Eckl, executive v.p. of the Getrag Innovations Center, “which parallels what we find today with conventional automatics. The same is not true with CVTs, especially in the upper segments or in Europe.” European drivers question the durability of CVT belts and prefer the greater economy, accelerative capacity, and sportiness of DCTs. “By 2015,” says Eckl, “we expect DCTs to take 29% of the European market, 7% of the North American market, and 13% of the Asian market.”
Getrag isn’t just banking on new transmission technology for growth. With a large portion of the market populated by transverse front-drive vehicles, it is developing traction concepts that make the most out of this architecture by increasing its flexibility. According to Dr. Stefan Rinderknecht, Getrag’s v.p. of Research and Development, vehicles built with this powertrain architecture are ripe for the addition of an electronic limited-slip differential that shifts torque side-to-side or front-to-back in order to improve traction and handling. For the ultimate in traction, a hang-on power transfer unit (PTU) can be added to the end of the gearbox to drive the rear wheels. “We can also take this basic front-drive layout and use it to drive the rear wheels alone, or—with the addition of a PTU—make this an all-wheel-drive vehicle with a rear torque bias.” As odd as it may sound, one American automaker is rumored to be investigating a transverse rear-drive layout for a small vehicle with performance overtones.—CAS