Development of high-efficiency transmissions appropriate for light-passenger, off-highway, and commercial vehicles is the basis for strategic alliances involving Allison Transmission, Dana Holding Corp., and Fallbrook Technologies. The relationship will facilitate the development, manufacture, and commercialization of gearless transmissions using Fallbrook’s NuVinci Continuously Variable Planetary (CVP) technology.
The NuVinci’s basic design uses a set of rotating balls—located between the transmission’s input and output components—that tilt and vary the output speed. The tilting balls change their contact diameters with the discs, which varies the speed ratios.
Allison has an exclusive license for using NuVinci technology to develop and commercialize primary drivetrain transmissions for its end markets, which could include commercial vehicles and military applications as well as certain off-highway and large stationary equipment.
A separate agreement provides Dana the ability to engineer and produce transmission components and other powertrain products using Fallbrook's technology under an exclusive license for passenger and certain off-highway vehicles in the markets that Dana serves.
Lawrence Dewey, Chairman, President, and CEO of Allison, said during a Sept. 13 conference call with media that the agreements put in place a “coordinated approach to product development.”
Roger Wood, President and CEO of Dana, noted via email exchange with SAE Magazines that NuVinci technology “changes the way mechanical power is transmitted. It reduces the complexity of powertrain systems through its compact coaxial design, allowing the engine to operate at peak efficiency.”
Dana technologists conducted a performance assessment of the core NuVinci CVP technology. Those findings were used in “high level powertrain systems simulations for a typical Class A vehicle with a range of transmissions—e.g. automatic and manuals. The results indicated the NuVinci technology enables the engine to operate at the optimal speed for the power demand, which means the engine is always running at peak efficiency,” according to Wood.
For several years, Allison technical specialists independently looked at CVT technology in its various forms. Noted Dewey, “Allison’s investment in a noncontrolling equity stake in Fallbrook Technologies is a tangible indication of our interest in this technology.”
NuVinci CVP technology can mate with traditional transmission components.
According to Dewey, “Generally speaking, CVPs are in front of the transmission in respect to their drivetrain location. There are situations where an entirely new transmission will present the better solution for moving ahead; and in other cases, depending on the application or vocation, a modification to a current product might prove more workable.”
While light passenger vehicles are projected to realize an 8-10% fuel economy improvement when using NuVinci CVP technology, similar gains are possible for larger vehicles.
Noted Wood, “Improvement projections would vary depending on duty cycles, but expectations are in the 10% range for a typical front-end loader in a Y-cycle duty.”
Transmissions and other advanced powertrain systems “engineered with this technology will ultimately deliver higher customer value by improving performance, increasing fuel economy, reducing greenhouse gases, reducing system complexity, and increasing design flexibility,” added Wood.
Off-highway vehicles in the markets served by Dana likely will see NuVinci CVP technology usage in the next three to five years. Light-passenger vehicles using NuVinci technology for production applications will be closer to the 2020 time frame.
Dewey stated in an email that “a hard timeline for commercial vehicles isn’t presently being shared. However, after completing a series of developmental and on-road evaluations, further announcements will be made available to OEMs and the media.”