Automakers are adding gears to transmissions at a furious rate in their effort to keep internal combustion engines relevant as fuel economy and emissions regulations ratchet up in countries around the world. Honda has gone the rest of the industry one better by filing a patent with the Japanese Patent Office for an 11 speed device that uses three separate clutches to get the job of transmitting power to the driven wheels done with maximum efficiency.
Ford and General Motors collaborated recently on a new family of 9 and 10 speed transmissions that will be offered in a range of vehicles from light pickup trucks to sports models like the Chevrolet Camaro. Oddly enough, Ford earlier this year also patented its own idea for an 11 speed transmission.
In its patent application, Honda asserts that the third clutch will be able to decrease torque removal that occurs with dual clutch transmissions. The patent application also says the new transmission will allow “speed change to be more effectively restricted and a speed change response to be increased.” Those comments were translated from Japanese and are rather confusing. For instance, I have no idea what “torque removal” means. The application was published on May 27, 2016 and is registered to Honda Motor Co Ltd. The inventor credited is Izumi Masao.
The application offers no hint about what sort of vehicle would benefit from an 11 speed, three clutch transmission, but since it was submitted to the patent office in Japan, we can assume it is intended for small, urban cars rather than the likes of the Accord, Civic or upcoming Clarity. Honda makes a number of small cars it sells in Japan and the rest of Asia that are not imported to the US market. Although if Honda wanted to bring its kei car derived Honda Beat sub-compact convertible stateside, lots of people would cheer.
It’s a little surprising that Honda wouldn’t just use a continuously variable transmission, or CVT, for such duties. It’s hard to imagine that such a complex device as an 11 speed transmission would be cheaper to produce and have better reliability than a simple CVT.