Ford says it plans to offer new eight-speed automatic transmissions across its vehicle lineup that offer improved fuel economy and ultra-precise shifts.
The gearbox will allow Ford to continue its effort to downsize engine displacement without affecting performance, said Joe Bakaj, Ford's vice president of global powertrain engineering.
"The eight-speed will offer 2 to 6 percent better fuel economy" compared with today's six-speed transmission, like that found in the Ford F-150, Bakaj said. "It will have a wide ratio spread, so customers can run a shorter gear [than today] pulling away from a stop."
The eight-speed will also feature what Ford says is the industry's first torque input sensor. The sensor will measure torque coming into the transmission, enabling faster gear selection, reducing gear hunting and helping smooth out shifts.
"The transmission knows how much torque is needed and will be able to variably control pressure on the clutch packs to deliver smooth shifts," Bakaj said.
Hydraulic actuators that control line pressure applied to clutch plates during shifts will be directly integrated into the transmission case instead of embedded in a separate assembly that's bolted inside the housing, like today's Ford transmissions use. The integrated construction promises tighter component fit and less component flexibility which can stress the sensitive parts.
Bakaj didn't say which cars and trucks will get the new transmission, but we imagine it will be a perfect match for the Ford F-150, which currently uses a six-speed 6R80 automatic gearbox.
Ford also announced a so-called split cooling system that allows the cylinder block to warm up before the cylinder head, improving engine mileage and efficiency. The system saves fuel during cold weather or short trips because oil and engine fluid viscosity rises as temperatures fall, so more work and more fuel is required to overcome friction in the powertrain.
"It's actually a single cooling loop with multiple circuits," said Brett Hinds, manager of Ford EcoBoost engine development. "We [variably] block coolant to the radiator [when the engine is cold] to warm up the engine block sooner while still allowing coolant to flow to the heads [which sit on top of the engine block over the cylinders]."
The split cooling system will debut on Ford's new 1-liter three-cylinder EcoBoost engine coming to Ford's small cars, but in a case of trickle-up engineering, it will migrate to other vehicles.