For what seemed like many years, the 6-speed transmission was the most common engine used in cars up until a few years ago. Way back when, between 1920-1980, 1- and 2-speed transmissions were used, then 3-4 speed. In the 1990s, we had 5-and 6-speed transmissions, and during the 2000s, progressed to 7- and 8-speed transmissions.
Not all cars are being made with 8-speed but many car manufacturers are moving to it because it has improved fuel consumption and also reduced CO2 output.
If we continue with 2 new speeds every decade, we’ll see a continued uphill trend and eventually a plateau. Many electric cars don’t even have transmissions but that may change soon. Regardless, moving from gas to all electric cars would take years and years of transitioning among all drivers across the world.
Improvements With 8-Speed Transmissions
More gears means a larger overall ratio spread and a smaller ratio spread between gears. This means that acceleration improves for a quieter drive and the engine works at its most optimal power level. A tricky part of this is fitting more gears in smaller engine spaces so the transmission for a truck has more room to spread than the engine for a little Fiat. As a results some small cars are stuck with last decade’s number of speeds in their transmission.
Better Transmissions, More Sales
Some critics complain that cars are the same as a decade ago plus some fancy new options like Pandora radio. However, sticking with the same game plan not only stalls innovation, it stalls car sales too. Lately there is more focus on safety features to reduce accidents and injury. And since flying cars still aren’t an option to the majority, having a more powerful and smoother ride is.
GM and Ford worked together to research and develop an 8-speed transmission to reduce their investment risk but engineer a better one. BMW has it in their 5 series with them and many trucks get the upgrade. Part of the drive to upgrade is to meet federal fuel economy regulations.
Fuel Efficiency Standards
Under the direction of President Obama, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) moves into phase 2 of improving fuel efficiency and greenhouse gases for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles for model years 2014-2018. These must achieve a 15% reduction by model year 2018 and potentially one gallon of gas per 100 miles driven.
Part of this is to reduce independence on foreign oil. Another way to reduce independence was the approval to do ultrasonic blasts up and down the east coast to search for oil wells, which is questionable to the welfare of ecosystem in the region. Long-term goals are to get new and light truck fuel efficiency up to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 so expect transmissions to continue evolving.
Improving the fuel efficiency of your car comes from keeping up with maintenance schedules and driving kindly without overworking the transmission. Keeping the oil, filter, and air filters clean are great steps to take to ensuring the longevity of your car. Flushing the transmission fluid and keeping the wheels rotated, balanced, and aligned also help in the long run. Schedule an Appointment with your local AAMCO Colorado store for any repairs or maintenance you need or send us any questions online Ask a Mechanic.