In recent years, automakers and parts suppliers seem to be taking an approach to transmissions essentially similar to the innovations in the realm of men’s razors; “the competition’s caught up – give ‘er another blade!” Or another forward gear, or what have you.
We can’t comment on the effects of scraping yet another blade across one’s face in a feeble attempt to look presentable. We can, however, comment on transmissions.
Realistically, the comparison between men’s razors and car transmissions isn’t quite an even one; emissions regulations are constantly on the rise, and CVTs effectively illustrate how the addition of more forward ratios can assist fuel economy. Of course, CVTs are commonly dreadful in terms of responsiveness and reliability. A dual-clutch or a conventional torque-converter automatic can yield more satisfying response, but the number of allowable forward gear ratios is limited both by how quickly the transmission computer can respond to torque requests from the driver, and by obvious packaging requirements.
But as AutoGuide reports, Ford’s new 11-speed automatic transmission plans circumvent that latter concern, for the most part. The Ford 11-speed automatic, if it’s ever produced, will use “produces eleven forward speed ratios and one reverse speed ratio by selective engagement of three shift elements in various combinations,” in the automaker’s own words. Three variations of the 11-speed automatic are detailed in the patent, each using different clutch, gear, and brake configurations to manipulate the flow of torque.
Interestingly, Ford is already working with General Motors to create new 9- and 10-speed automatic transmissions, to be shared by both automakers. Given that, whether this patented 11-speed automatic transmission from Ford is imminent foreshadowing, or simply preemptive intellectual property protection, is anyone’s guess.