Gear Production

DEC 2015

Gear Production

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December 2015—15 parking. The vehicle also has a sensor/electronics setup that permits the car to be maneuvered into a parking place by someone—nominally the driver—who is standing outside the vehicle and controlling it through a smart watch. Why is this important? Because being able to park vehicles without occupants means that they can be put into smaller spaces, which is reckoned to be important for the urban environment of the future. What's more, the Smart Urban Vehicle communicates with the cloud; its PreVision Cloud Assist driver assistance function uses cloud- contained information to actually adjust things like the speed that the vehicle goes through a turn to optimize the velocity for purposes of maintaining electric energy in the battery. If you've ever been in a car with lane-keeping assist, where the system "nudges" you via a steering wheel input to stay in your lane, take that experience and add throttle adjustment and then multiply the whole thing and you get a sense of the Smart Urban Vehicle in action. Stefan Sommer, CEO of ZF, describes the Smart Urban Car—which is admittedly a concept, but one that is drivable—as "a starting point from which concepts for future mobility can be derived very specifcally." Which, given that it is an electric vehicle, one might think that the future doesn't bode well when it comes to things like gear-flled automatic transmissions… or does it? Accelerated Evolution For one thing, you've got to get to the future, which means doing things now. And when it comes to transmissions, ZF has been producing eight-speed automatics since 2009. It has two production facilities for the transmissions, Saarbrücken, Germany, and Gray Court, South Carolina. Through the end of 2014, 7.5 million units have been produced. The plants have an annual capacity of more than 2.6 million units. The 8 hp, as the eight-speed is known, is now in its second generation, one that has even better fuel effciency performance (by approximately three percent) than the original. And ZF has supplied the 8 hp to more than 600 different volume-production applications for cars and SUVs with a longitudinal powertrain setup. Clearly, the eight-speed transmission is providing lots of business for ZF. And in 2013, it became the frst supplier of a nine-speed transmission. While the 8 hp lends itself to cars with rear-wheel-drive, the 9 hp is for front-transverse drivelines. What's interesting to note is that ZF had not been producing front-drive transmissions for a number of years. But based on market research—which indicates there is going to be continued growth in vehicles using that powertrain arrangement—ZF executives knew that it had to get back into the transverse transmission. What's notable about the 9 hp is that, thanks in large part to the in-house developed and built electronic control unit, it is possible to manage the gear spread such that the vehicle is kept in a fuel-effcient operating zone. For example, ZF compared the nine-speed with one of its own six-speeds and determined that at a constant ZF started building nine-speed transmissions for front-trans- verse applications in 2013.

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