12-speed transmission: Cool or crazy?
3:03

12-speed transmission: Cool or crazy?

Cars
Hey gang, Brian Cooley here from Road Show. Another one of your emails about high tech cars and modern driving. This one comes in from Bob R., who says how many more gears are coming to cars? Is there a limit? That's it. Very pithy. This is a great question, Bob, because we have seen a gears arm race recently in vehicles. Who knew we would have up to ten speeds In a vehicle for an automatic transmission at least and frequently six for a manual. Those were unheard of not that many years ago. What's going on here with more and more gears is the main reason that gears exist in a car at all, and that is because they have to help as a crutch for the combustion engine. A gasoline engine for example is actually pretty crappy at what it does. Not only does it waste most of its gas creating heat, not movement, but it also tends to have a very narrow spot where it works well. Down low, not efficient. Up really high, running out of breath. It's kind of like those mid RPMs with a predictable linear load. The gears help to translate that and make the engine work over a wider range of speeds, loads, inclines on the road, And RPM ranges. So to have more gears means you have more ways to hit the sweeter part of the sweet spot, at any given mode of when and how you're driving the car. That's why they're going to so many gears, it yields better performance, it yields better fuel efficiency, and better fuel efficiency necessarily yields lower emissions. So there is all that, that said I don't think we're gonna go to 11, 12, 13, 14 speed transmission aside from big rig trucks. What we're seeing here is we've hit peak gear, most of the car makers and transmission builders that I've talked to say yeah, ten is kinda the limit. After that, there's not a lot of benefit and the challenges around adding more gears had come around first and foremost packaging. How do you make a transmission with more gears and not be physically larger? Cuz the larger transmission is def in the auto industry. How do you make it not get too heavy? How do you keep it from having enormous R&D costs that you can't really recoup in the improvement in the vehicle? So these are some of the reasons that I don't think we're gonna see more gears in cars beyond the current era we're in now. Which is a lot of nines and even a few tens. And notice one of the most talked about ten speed automatics out there right now is a collaboration between Ford and General Motors. It's not a differentiator between brands of cars. It doesn't matter if it's yours or someone elses. Car markers are getting smart about the idea of not re-inventing each other's wheel. Something else is coming, and that is electrics. That don't really use gears the same way. They don't have these multi gears transmissions like a combustion engine car does. And that's going to, I think, sunset the error of the gear arms race for sure. We're going to see more and more electric motors that operate happily at a wide range of RPMs, with great performance across the band. and not need that seven, eight, nine, ten gear crutch. Keep those emails coming. I'm here to answer your questions about high tech cars and modern driving. It's cooley@theroadshow.com.

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