German supplier ZF has cooked up a two-speed transmission for electric vehicles that could have a big impact on the industry. Current EV motors already have a wide rev range; they produce massive torque at zero or low RPMs and maintain efficient operation. That’s why most EVs do just fine with a single-speed transmission with the gear ratios set in stone during the manufacturing process. However, ZF is betting that it can do better by moving to a two-speed transmission.
ZF’s New Two-Speed EV Transmission
ZF has unveiled a brand new two-speed EV transmission. The company thinks it has improved the technology to increase the vehicle’s efficiency without taking up a ton of space, which would affect the weight and overall efficiency of the vehicle.
The two-speed unit will automatically shift gears at 43 miles per hour. However, it also works with other systems in the vehicle. For instance, it might use GPS and local topography to determine when to shift gears. It also has the capability to monitor the location of the nearest EV charging station to increase range when necessary.
ZF Transmission May Boost Range by 5%
ZF claims the two-speed unit boosts efficiency and can stretch the range of EVs by up to 5 percent versus a single-speed unit. Automakers could use this advantage to introduce a smaller battery to reduce weight or stick with the same battery to achieve additional range.
Tweaking the gear ratios could alternately lead to higher top speeds — which could be a real problem for some EVs that trade speed for performance. EV aficionados are looking forward to the release of the Porsche Taycan, which is set to use the new two-speed transmission.
Transmission on EVs vs. Traditional Cars
Transmission speed is currently the main difference between electric cars and conventional ones. A traditional car or truck has an internal combustion engine with a multi-speed gearbox that controls several ratios. In contrast, the vast majority of EVs use single-speed transmission.
Electric motors yield maximum torque at zero RPMs. Unlike internal combustion engines, EVs don’t require a way to disengage from the drivetrain in order to idle when the car stops. Instead, electric motors have great power output over a broad RPM range. This gives designers the freedom to select a gear ratio that enables decent acceleration and speed. Since electric motors achieve about 20,000 RPM, top speed isn’t typically a limiting factor. However, the two-speed transmission will let designers bring other factors into consideration.
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