More gears, electronic shifting, and dual clutches: here’s how modern transmissions are improving fuel economy
In the unending quest to increase vehicle fuel efficiency, some auto manufacturers are adding more gears to automatic transmissions. It’s two-pronged answer to improving vehicle mileage and adhering to increasingly stringent carbon dioxide emission standards for cars and light-duty trucks.
Adding gears to improve performance is not an entirely new idea, but much of the thrust for doing so concerning maintaining fuel efficiency is the idea that more gears reduce the engine’s operating range. That concept gave way to the creation of continuously variable transmissions (CVT). By keeping engine revs low, a CVT ensures no more fuel is burned than what is required for any type of driving.
Some people believe a manual transmission provides better fuel efficiency than an automatic transmission. There may be a hint of truth to that – and only just – but it depends entirely on the model of vehicle you drive. However, on the whole, a modern vehicle with an automatic transmission is more economical than one with a manual transmission.
Expanding the number of gears in automatic transmissions or installing a CVT in a car are two approaches intended to increase and maintain fuel efficiency, but here are other options, including automated manual transmissions (AMT) and dual-clutch transmissions (DCT).
AMTs, aka automated clutch-manual transmissions, are thought to provide better fuel economy than other automatic transmissions because they have a clutch instead of a torque converter. That may not be indisputable with the invention of lock-up torque converters and electronic gear shifting. Nevertheless, AMTs also use electronics to shift gears and they provide a similar driving experience to a traditional automatic transmission.
DCTs, also referred to as a twin-clutch transmission, house two clutches: one for even-numbered gears, the other for odd-numbered gears. Compared to a traditional automatic transmission, DCTs reportedly reduce fuel consumption between 3% and as much as 9%. DCTs, powered by a car’s onboard computer, are becoming increasingly common in both domestic and imported vehicles.
It’s the automatic transmission innovations among competing auto manufacturers that are transforming the cars we drive, and their improving fuel efficiency. Since the mid-1990s, Canadian motorists have been gravitating toward purchasing vehicles equipped with automatic transmissions. That, in turn, led to the increasing rivalry between carmakers to develop more efficient transmissions.
Not to be overlooked, improving your car’s fuel efficiency requires more than adding gears or choosing a vehicle with a CVT. Sleeker auto bodies, buying high-quality tires, and regularly scheduled maintenance of your transmission can all add up to fuel cost-savings.
If you have a question about your car’s differential or transmission, contact the Mister Transmission service centre nearest to you.