AMT for Lamborghini Aventador

AMT for Lamborghini Aventador

Continuing just-auto’s series of interviews with leading transmission makers, Matthew Beecham talked with Paolo Mantelli, head of automotive transmissions, Oerlikon Graziano. Oerlikon Graziano specialises in the design, integration and precision manufacture of transmissions for high-performance road cars. The company is also a global supplier of transmissions, axles and driveline components for other sectors including electric, off-highway and industrial vehicles. It has facilities dotted across the US, UK, China, India, Italy and Russia.

just-auto: As we understand it, vehicle manufacturers are recognising that the diversity of gearbox technologies gives them opportunities to map the feel of transmissions to their brand. What do you see happening in the market?

Paolo Mantelli: Vehicle manufacturers used to rely on software calibration to map the feel of the transmission to their brand. This is still a powerful approach and our colleagues at Vocis have substantial expertise in this area. On top of this, the proliferation of transmission technologies is now allowing the hardware to be brand-focussed too.

Three supercar manufacturers recently launched vehicles with new Oerlikon Graziano transmissions. McLaren chose a DCT because it is very fast but has a sophisticated feel, Aston-Martin chose a light-weight AMT for a race-style feel, while Lamborghini worked with us to design a new type of AMT that is both exceptionally fast and highly involving for the driver. The strength of Oerlikon Graziano lies in our simultaneous development of both the mechanical and control elements of a system, which provides much greater efficiency and an increased ability to optimise all aspects of the transmission for the brand.

How do you see the future for electronically-actuated AMTs, whether integrated into hybrid or electric powertrains or combined with a conventional internal combustion engine? I guess the relative simplicity of engineering, low cost and fuel-saving potential of AMTs are the main selling points?

For hybrid applications, an electronically-controlled AMT is package-friendly, cost-effective and fuel efficient. By using the electric traction motor to help match shaft speeds and torque levels, the system delivers most of the attributes of a DCT in a lighter, more compact transmission. We are already working with a number of European vehicle manufacturers to introduce multi-speed gearboxes for electric vehicles, using a highly-developed architecture that combines elements of AMT and DCT. You don’t need many ratios to deliver a significant improvement in range as well as superior usability through a higher top speed and improved hill-climbing.

Do you think that transmissions have more potential these days to help reduce fuel consumption and at a lower cost than, say, engine-internal measures?

It’s about deriving the “biggest bang for the buck”. Engine technologies have been developed to a level where it’s becoming harder to deliver significant benefits from each additional Euro. A step change is required. New transmissions can offer exciting possibilities, such as electronically-controlled AMTs or DCTs but the biggest gains come from optimising the powertrain as a whole, engine and transmission together.

Although DCTs have high-speed resistance, they are still more expensive than torque converter transmissions (depending, of course, on the segment you are looking at). Or is all that price relationship changing? How do you see the global transmission market evolving in terms of manual, automatics, etc?  And what do you see happening in those emerging markets such as China and India?

Traditional torque converter transmissions are likely to be restricted to luxury applications where more ratios can be justified and packaging and weight are less critical. In all markets, DCTs have the potential to replace conventional automatics by providing the same level of shift smoothness with superior fuel economy. We have a number of alternative designs to suit different packaging and torque requirements. AMTs will have a growing role at the utility end of the market, where the ability to control shift points brings valued fuel economy improvements. It’s still very much an evolving technology with interesting innovations being introduced for high-end applications. Oerlikon Graziano’s ISR system for Lamborghini uses a DCT-like shift technology to provide the fastest change time of any transmission but still with good refinement.

In terms of the future of manual gearboxes, some people expect manual transmissions to remain attractive in cost-sensitive markets while automated transmissions will gradual gain market share.  Other people anticipate a gradually decreasing market for manual transmissions as drivers like the comfort and convenience while engineers like the ability to control the shift points in order to meet emissions and CO2 requirements.  What do you anticipate will happen to the manual transmission market?

There will always be a market for manuals in Europe as long as legislation allows them, but it is interesting that we are now being asked to design AMTs that don’t have a manual option. This allows us to remove many of the compromises of previous generation AMTs to make them faster, smoother, smaller and lighter. The need for a manual option is disappearing at the supercar end of the market, where we have recently introduced three new transmissions for vehicles that do not have a manual option. It is inevitable that this philosophy will be increasingly reflected in lower cost segments.
Given the global economic climate, need to control emissions, demand from BRIC countries and increasing oil price, it suggest that no one transmission technology will be the winner.  Would you agree?

Yes, there is a different optimum transmission for each combination of market conditions and driver and brand requirements. The only certainty is a reduction in the global market share for traditional manual and automatic transmissions as the new technologies displace them in an increasing range of applications.

We’ve seen the introduction of gearboxes with seven and eight speeds which can improve efficiency. From a technical point of view, I guess that gives the traditional planetary automatic a new lease of life?  On the flipside, does the additional cost and weight of more gears cancel out the efficiency gains?

Each additional ratio delivers a smaller incremental benefit, so the optimum number of ratios is different for each vehicle. Larger vehicles typically benefit most and, with more ratios, they can have more radically downsized engines. The additional ratios take up more space, which on larger vehicles is increasingly required for hybrid drive systems.

About Oerlikon

Oerlikon is a high-tech industrial group specialising in machine and plant engineering. The company is a provider of innovative industrial solutions and technologies for textile manufacturing, thin-film coating, drive, precision, vacuum, solar energy systems and advanced nanotechnology. Oerlikon employs 16,000 people at 157 locations in 36 countries.

About Vocis

Vocis designs, develops and calibrates automotive driveline control systems and in the management of complex driveline` integration programmes. This expertise is also being applied to next-generation electric vehicles, where the company’s innovative two-speed transmission will provide a step-change in energy efficiency.  Vocis is part-owned by Oerlikon Graziano, which provides a range of complementary skills, allowing the partners to deliver complete, turnkey transmissions from design concepts through to vehicle integration and calibration.

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