Ford and GM team up on fuel-saving 9- and 10-speed transmissions

Ford and GM team up on fuel-saving 9- and 10-speed transmissions
Ford and GM are developing a new generation of transmissions
Ford and GM are developing a new generation of transmissions
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Ford and GM are developing a new generation of transmissions
Ford and GM are developing a new generation of transmissions
ZF's 9-speed transmission
ZF's 9-speed transmission

Over the course of the past several years, German manufacturer ZF Friedrichshafen has introduced 8- and 9-speed transmissions. Vehicle models from the likes of Chrysler and Land Rover have made use of the new hardware, touting fuel economy gains and other advantages. Now, the other two major Detroit auto manufacturers are teaming up to develop 9-speed transmissions of their own, and they're taking it one step further: 10-speed transmissions.

GM and Ford announced on Monday that they are cooperating on the development of 9- and 10-speed transmissions toward better vehicle performance and improved fuel economy. The transmissions will eventually make their way to front-wheel and rear-wheel drive cars, crossovers, trucks and SUVs across both manufacturers' line-ups.

"Engineering teams from GM and Ford have already started initial design work on these new transmissions," said Jim Lanzon, GM vice president of global transmission engineering. "We expect these new transmissions to raise the standard of technology, performance and quality for our customers while helping drive fuel economy improvements into both companies’ future product portfolios."

While such a team-up between two rival-giants might seem strange, automakers work jointly on projects all the time – the Toyota FT 86/Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ being a well-known recent example. Such partnerships help to pool resources, save costs and speed development.

GM and Ford state that this marks the third time in 10 years that they're collaborating on transmissions. Both companies together have delivered more than 8 million jointly developed 6-speed front-wheel-drive transmissions, including on popular models like the Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Malibu.

GM and Ford will build the transmissions at their own respective plants and independently match them to individual vehicles, but they will use common, interchangeable hardware.

At March's Geneva Motor Show, Land Rover showed what it called the world's first 9-speed transmission (the ZF HP9) on a passenger car. Ten-speed transmissions remain a technology of the future.

"Ten-speeds put them ahead," Jim Hall, analyst at 2953 Analytics LLP, told the Detroit News. "People now are working on eights and nines. Tens are on the bleeding-edge side."

Based on past public comments, ZF won't be rushing to compete against Ford and GM. In November, its CEO Stefan Sommer suggested at the Automobilwoche Congress in Berlin that more than nine gears could exceed the point of diminishing returns. He said that the added weight and complexity of more gears would eliminate the fuel economy advantages.

ZF's 9-speed transmission
ZF's 9-speed transmission

A Ford spokesperson told us that technological advances over the past few years have helped to cut internal drag losses, thereby reducing the penalty for adding more gears and empowering enough potential fuel economy increase to make developing a 10-speed worthwhile. He clarified that the 10-speed is being designed for rear-wheel-drive applications and could be particularly well-suited to trucks

GM declined to provide a technical response to Sommer's comments and said that they were not making executives available for interview. A spokesperson stated simply that the comments are Sommer's opinion and reiterated the general goals of improved performance and increased fuel economy.

Of course, ZF had a shiny new 9-speed transmission to advertise when Sommer made those comments, and rumors of 10-speeds from the GM-Ford partnership and Hyundai were already circulating at the time. We don't see GM and Ford putting the work into development without some solid perceived gains. How successful they'll be at realizing those gains remains to be seen.

Sources: Ford/GM, Autoweek

Conceptually if you just put a 2 speed in series with a 5 speed you will have a 10 speed. You could cut multiple gears into a single forging and spin the whole thing with just 2 bearings. Or you could could modify the design of a Pelton wheel so it has multiple rings of cups on the side of a disk and run the output through a high ratio reduction gear. Put cups on the other side facing the other direction will give you a range of gears in revers as well.
Bill Bennett
It is called a split differential Slowburn, usually very heavy, also ZF gear boxes Chris are designated 4hp, 5hp 6 hp not HP 9 it would be a 9HP then another number to reflect how much horse power it can withstand, hence 5HP-19 or 5HP-24
Why waste money designing and building a new design of gearbox when there are already perfectly good ones available, at good prices, made by gearbox specialists?
The answer: So that you can say it is made in America and get all xenophobic about foreign products.This is ridiculous nationalism at its best, not to mention reinventing the wheel.
More gears is not a measure of how good a gearbox is in terms of efficiency or feel. I bet the ZF gearbox's will still be better because they are made by gearbox experts and not ordinary car manufacturers. Ford and GM would be better off spending their money on improving quality control measures for the vehicles they currently make instead.
5 gears, 6, 7, 8, 9, ... geezuz chrysti, can you just quit with the more gears b.s. and go CVT like you really want to. What's the point? Your 25 gear transmission still will be no match for CVT, so quit creeping up to the finish line and just stand up and run over it already.
Anne Ominous
I'm with PDB. Instead of putting all this money into 9- and 10-speed transmissions, why not spend the same or even less on CVT? After all, CVTs are already in some cars, and you have NuVinci already trying hard to get solidly in the market. Surely there are other suitable designs, too.
re; PimplyDykBallz
CTVs suffer from high internal friction and corresponding wear rates, and slip under high torque loads.
re; Oztechi
Do you really think that Ford and GM don't have their own gear box experts?
There is also cost Ford and GM don't need to make a profit on gear boxes so they will get The ones they build themselves at cost. Maybe they want their new transmissions to be compatible with engines that have already been built.
Experts aren't always right.
Maybe they want their new transmissions to be lubricated with the same Glycerol antifreeze solution that they are going to be using in their engines. (Unlikely but stranger things have happened.)
Michael Wilson
QFT. CVTs cannot yet take the power of a transmission with conventional gearsets. They work with smaller cars, but with more powerful cars, they simply do not hold up.
David Clarke
@Slowburn, take a look at Torotrak. They make a CVT , and I think they were before NuVinci. There are no belts to wear out. Their system also includes KERS.
Ah the last gasps of a dying tech. At best this will increase fuel eff by 2-3%. So they increase eff from 7 to 7.2%, big whop!!
But eliminating it, the engine and replacing it with a many x's more eff E motor increases eff 200-600%!
My lightweight EV's get 250 and 500mpg equivalents and only cost 25% of a gas version to run.
Tesla sent them the memo but I guess they didn't read it.
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