ZF Shifts Gears With Nine-Speed Gearbox
Remember the first time you shifted from 5th to 6th gear and thought that extra gear was pretty cool? It wasn’t that long ago, and the number of gears just keeps climbing. Seven, eight — how high can we go? Well, German drivetrain supplier ZF says it’s working on a nine-speed automatic gearbox and Chrysler is the first customer in line.
ZF says the gearbox, which should be available in two years, will bring double-digit improvements in fuel economy. The box is designed for cars with transverse engines, which account for 80 percent of vehicles built around the world.
ZF promises the gearbox will feature the “sporty genes” its eight-speed auto box provides in vehicles like the Chrylser 300 (2011 model pictured), a vehicle we wouldn’t think of as “sporty.” It says shift times are measured in milliseconds and. The box weighs the same as the eight-speed.
So at what point will we see a 10-speed transmission? Probably never. Michael Paul, executive VP of ZF, told the Detroit News we’re at the limits of what can be done with eight- and nine-speed boxes and any further gains “would require an entirely different concept.” He also said Chrysler is the first customer for the new nine-speed gearbox.
Photo: Chrysler. Chrysler will be the first to use the new ZF nine-speed automatic transmission.