11/05/2002 – Ford Overhauls Transmission Lineup; Focus On Performance, Fuel Economy

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Source: Ford Motor Company


“We are putting an intense focus on transmissions at Ford Motor Company. With the introduction of a new TorqShift 5-speed automatic, CVTs in 2004 and soon after new rear-wheel-drive and front-wheel-drive 6-speed automatics, we expect that 50 percent of our transmission lineup in North America will be all new by 2008.
– Phil Yuhasz
Chief Engineer, Automatic Transmissions

  • Ford is revamping its automatic transmission lineup and by 2008 more than 50 percent of its transmissions in North America will be all new.
  • Ford is working on new automatic transmission architectures – including 5-speeds, 6-speeds and continuously variable transmissions – that have a wider ratio span between the highest and lowest gear ratios, making better use of engine power and helping to improve fuel efficiency.
  • At the same time, Ford is working to improve virtually all of its existing transmissions. As a result, customer satisfaction with Ford’s transmissions is at its highest point in recent years. Ford Motor Company is working together with General Motors Corp. to develop a high-volume, front-wheel-drive 6-speed automatic transmission with an estimated 4 percent to 8 percent improvement in fuel economy over 4-speed automatics.

Ford Motor Company is set to introduce a variety of all new transmissions within the next five years, including the new TorqShift 5-speed automatic transmission, set to go on sale in F-Series Super Duty trucks, an all-new continuously variable transmission (CVT) and new front-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive 6-speed automatic transmissions.

These new transmissions will offer significant fuel economy benefits, as well as smoother operation and performance feel, for greater customer satisfaction.

In addition, numerous efficiency improvements – including enhanced torque converter lock-up, new electronic control systems and reduced parasitic losses – will be applied to all existing Ford transmissions to maximize the amount of engine power delivered to the vehicle and to improve their shift quality and durability.

Wider gear ratio spans

The ratio span of an automatic transmission is calculated by dividing the highest forward gear ratio (used for launch) by the top gear ratio (used for highway cruising). Increasing the gear ratio of first gear improves a vehicle’s launch acceleration. Reducing the top gear ratio lowers engine speed during highway driving, which improves fuel economy.

The ratio between the highest and lowest gears also is important for overall vehicle performance. Vehicles with four-speed transmissions typically have a relatively narrow ratio span, between 3.5 and 4.0, and must carefully balance launch performance and highway fuel economy.

“Increasing the overall ratio span can be a ‘win-win’ situation, allowing both performance and fuel economy improvement,” said Phil Yuhasz, chief engineer, Automatic Transmissions, Ford Motor Company. “We are developing our transmission designs to improve this ratio span throughout our full range of product offerings.”

Ford’s new family of continuously variable transmissions, to be offered first in the all-new Ford Freestyle and Ford Five Hundred vehicles beginning in 2004, provide a very wide (6.0) overall ratio span.

Starting in the middle of the decade, Ford’s trucks, SUVs and front- and rear-drive passenger cars also will be getting increased ratio span (6.0) with a new family of 6-speed automatic transmissions. The new 6-speed transmission repackages gearing and other components in a very efficient layout that enabled engineers to squeeze six forward speeds into approximately the same size housing. The new design, with more powerful electronic controls, also eliminates some of the bands and clutches that formerly would have been needed, saving both weight and complexity.

“While new architectures offer the opportunity to increase ratio span, we are also working to continuously improve the fuel efficiency of our existing automatic transmissions and drivelines,” Yuhasz said. “Advancements in friction materials, torque-converter dampers, fluids and control strategies will contribute to overall improvements in fuel economy.”

All-new TorqShift 5-speed automaticbr>

Ford’s new TorqShift® is a newly designed 5-speed automatic transmission, which will be available early in the 2003 calendar year on mid-2003 model year Ford F-Series Super Duty pickups and Ford Excursion SUV models equipped with Ford’s new 6.0-liter Power Stroke® Diesel engine. This transmission will replace the 4-speed automatic currently offered in those vehicles.

The new 5-speed automatic features improved gear ratios, higher capacity pumps for better cooling, robust components and simplified shift controls. These features contribute to fuel economy improvements, reliability, smooth shifts and quieter operation.

“The things our customers will really notice about this new transmission will be the durability, robustness and the performance,” Yuhasz said. “The acceleration you get in our new F-Series Super Duty truck, in combination with our new 6.0-liter Power Stroke diesel, blows away the competition. Towing performance in particular is awesome.”

A new hill-descend feature will improve driver confidence, particularly while towing. The transmission controller is able to recognize when the vehicle is going downhill, and if the driver taps on the brake, it automatically downshifts to help slow the vehicle. Further braking by the driver prompts another downshift if needed. On uphill towing, transmission shift points automatically adjust to allow the engine to remain in its maximum power zone.

Super Duty and the Ford Excursion benefit from an increased overall ratio span with the new high-torque capacity 5-speed automatic. This new transmission design also will allow lower engine idle and torque converter lockup speeds for additional fuel economy benefits.

Continuously Variable Transmissions< br>

In conjunction with its partner ZF Industries of Germany, Ford will introduce its new family of Ecotronic continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) beginning in the U.S. in 2004.

The first Ford vehicles in the U.S. to have the new CVTs will be the all-new Ford Freestyle “crossover” vehicle and Ford Five Hundred sedan, both of which will be built at Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant beginning in 2004. In Europe, this new CVT design will debut in the 2003 calendar year in a Ford product.

CVTs allow infinite variability between the highest and lowest ratios, with no discrete steps or shifts like on a traditional step-gear automatic transmission. This allows the engine to operate at its most efficient speed more frequently and further improves fuel economy. The Ecotronic family of CVTs is expected to improve vehicle fuel economy by up to 8 percent to 10 percent over a traditional 4-speed automatic transmission.

Continuously variable transmissions are best suited for small to mid-sized, front-wheel-drive vehicles with engines of 3.0 liters and less in displacement.

“While this fundamental technology is not new, we do expect to lead the industry in volume of CVT-equipped vehicles, our design is more advanced than previous CVT designs,” said Craig Renneker, executive engineer, Automatic Transmissions, Ford Motor Company.

The Ecotronic is considered a “second generation” CVT design with advanced electronic controls and an integrated computer control module

The new continuously variable transmission will be built at ZF Industries Batavia Transmission Plant near Cincinnati, Ohio. Production is to start next year for European vehicles and in 2004 for North American products.

New RWD 6-speed transmission

Ford will introduce an all-new rear-wheel-drive family of 6-speed automatic transmissions beginning in the 2005 calendar year. The new 6-speeds, featuring multiple variants for Ford Motor Company cars and trucks, will provide fuel economy improvements in the range of 6 percent to 8 percent.

These 6-speed transmissions use a very efficient architecture with reduced part complexity, low parasitic losses with comparable weight to many 4-speed automatics. This transmission will also have the ability to automatically shift into neutral during extended idle conditions, to reduce drag on the engine. When the driver presses the accelerator to launch, the transmission will reengage smoothly and automatically.

Sophisticated electronic control of the new transmission will offer several new features, including shift points that better adjust to specific driving conditions, and grade braking similar to that on the new TorqShift.

Front-wheel-drive 6-speed automatic

In a first-of-its-kind business arrangement between the world’s two largest automakers, Ford and General Motors will work together to develop a high-volume, front-wheel-drive 6-speed automatic transmission with improved fuel economy over today’s transmissions.

In October, GM and Ford signed an initial agreement – a memorandum of understanding – with final agreement expected this winter. Both companies have been working independently on their own front-wheel-drive 6-speed transmission programs.

The new transmission would offer an estimated 4 percent to 8 percent improvement in fuel economy over traditional 4-speed automatic transmissions available in today’s front-wheel-drive cars.

Under the memorandum, Ford and GM agreed to share a common design, engineering and testing of the new transmission; jointly work with suppliers to develop and purchase components; and assemble their own transmissions at their respective manufacturing plants.

The new 6-speed would be available beginning in mid- to late decade on front-wheel-drive cars and sport-utility vehicles with mid- to large-displacement engines.

“This agreement has huge potential for both companies, and it will pay off for our customers and our shareholders,” said Jim Padilla, Ford group vice president, North America. “New transmissions require such high development costs that higher volumes will enable us to realize economies of scale and achieve our shared goals faster and at a better cost.”

Only the base transmission design will be common. Each company will have powertrains that are distinct in feel and performance, since the transmissions will be mated to different engines, and the respective vehicle programs will have unique performance dynamics and calibration. Each company is responsible for integrating the transmission into its own vehicles.

The transmissions will share significant common technology and components. The design being pursued is a new architecture that will have optimal steps between gears and a wider gear ratio span to improve fuel economy. Featuring a compact design, the new 6-speed will be capable of higher torque capacity when compared to most existing front-wheel-drive transmissions such as four-speed automatics and CVTs.

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