UK-based Zeroshift has developed a new type of transmission, allowing seamless gearshifts with improved acceleration, economy and emissions. Matthew Beecham talked to Bill Martin, managing director of Zeroshift, about the genesis to the company’s automated manual transmission (AMT) concept, and what makes it different from competing technologies.

just-auto: Could you talk us through the background to Zeroshift’s research into complete drivelines, especially its AMT concept?

Bill Martin: Zeroshift employs automotive engineers with extensive driveline design and development experience, most having a transmission/driveline engineering background.

We have extensively vehicle and rig-tested our technology throughout its development, with instrumentation measuring torques and speeds during actuation.

Our mechanical engineers use Pro/E and UG design [software] packages to develop our system and satisfy customer programmes. Our designers are backed up by an experienced design analysis and development team, using Altair tools.

Our current development focus is on integrating the electronic control of the whole driveline system and gearbox actuation, clutch and engine management with emphasis on shift quality and refinement.

Zeroshift started business in 2002 and immediately demonstrated to the world its competence by building a demonstrator vehicle to showcase the Zeroshift technology.

just-auto: How does your advanced AMT work?

Bill Martin: The main concept is a superior AMT which is easy to adopt as it retains the existing casing and most of the internal architecture of its donor transmission. This allows OEMs and tier one suppliers to change in an evolutionary rather than a radical way with correspondingly less resistance from existing work practices. The Zeroshift AMT works by replacing the current synchromesh within a manual transmission with drive rings. These drive rings allow the next gear to be pre-engaged while retaining drive in the existing gear.

The actual gearshift takes place in zero time, so engine torque is not interrupted.

just-auto: Where can it be applied?

Bill Martin:  Zeroshift is applicable to transmissions within all sectors, torques, layouts and global regions. We are currently working on projects for automobile, truck, motorcycle, off-highway, hybrid, and racing applications, as well as applications outside of the automotive sector.

just-auto: In what ways does your AMT concept address the issues/technical constraints of competing concepts/designs?

Bill Martin:  Generally, transmission systems have strengths in some areas and weaknesses in others. This has resulted in vehicle manufacturers offering different solutions in various markets and segments.

Of the ten separate criteria for transmission system evaluation, for example, fuel economy, performance and manufacturing costs, Zeroshift uniquely is either best or equal to the best in each of the ten.

This creates a previously unprecedented ability for manufacturers to reduce the number of transmission types offered.

Existing AMTs score well on nine of the ten criteria but have inherently poor shift quality. Zeroshift has achieved shift quality and NVH that matches or exceeds the existing expectations of the high-end luxury segment.

The issues with most transmissions are fuel economy, performance and manufacturing costs. The Zeroshift AMT maintains the manual transmission in-gear efficiency which is superior to competing technologies such as the automatic transmission, dual clutch and CVT. All of these competing technologies have additional parasitic losses to operate hydraulic pumps. So from a fuel economy, CO2 reduction point of view, Zeroshift offers the best solution. In terms of performance, the manual transmission has historically been the best due to its light construction and high efficiency. Zeroshift is even better at accelerating a vehicle than a manual transmission as the gearshifting takes zero time. Zeroshift AMT is less expensive to implement and produce than all its competitors.

just-auto: Does your concept make any provision for manual operation? How does that impact on the unit’s design?

Bill Martin:  Zeroshift has the usual manual override, such as paddle shift or shift lever. There would be no need to alter the mechanical unit’s design. Manual gear shifting may eventually be legislated against due to emissions.

just-auto: As a development house, any translation of this concept into production depends on a licensing arrangement with a carmaker or transmission specialist. What stage are you at in terms of adoption and fitment of this type of transmission in Europe and elsewhere?

Bill Martin: The first potential licensees paid us to conduct studies of our system in their transmissions/vehicles. The first few of these programmes have recently been signed off by the prospective licensees.

We are now in the negotiation stage of agreeing the licence terms. So far, it has been agreed by all parties that all licences are non-exclusive. The first licences to be announced are in the following segments: high-volume passenger car, truck and off-highway vehicles. Components supply and joint ventures are also being discussed. Vehicles and initial volumes for production launch have been chosen.

just-auto: What is in the pipeline?

Bill Martin:  Discussions with many other manufacturers are heading in the same direction, so expect to see many joint announcements of licenses in all geographical regions and all segments. We have agents in Europe, India and South Korea.  We are also now focusing on Japan and China. We won the 2007 Frost & Sullivan Company of Year Award in the European powertrain market. With current momentum it seems that within two years, most manufacturers will be considering a licence. It also appears that they will roll out Zeroshift in all segments and regions. We see a future where Zeroshift is the only transmission option offered because it offers the best efficiency and lowest emissions. Future emissions legislation may eliminate manual transmissions that can be controlled by the driver.

just-auto: In what ways will the anticipated changeover to 42/36V impact on actuation and clutch technology?

Bill Martin: Due to the minimal gearshift actuation efforts required, Zeroshift’s current drain and power requirements are small compared to that of the automatic transmission, AMT, dual clutch and CVT, all of which require high effort actuation of clutched and/or shift mechanism. Therefore, vehicle voltage is not an issue. Zeroshift works perfectly with 12V. We have no need or wish to increase voltage but will adapt as required.

See also: Global market review of OE gearbox clutches – forecasts to 2013