Honda Invests $150 Million In 10 Speed Transmission For Front Wheel Drive Cars

Honda has spent 6 years developing a ten speed automatic transmission that will fit in the narrow confines of a front wheel drive vehicle. The current version of the Honda Odyssey offers a 9 speed unit but the 2018 Odyssey, which goes into production later this year, will offer two trim levels that feature the new 10 speed device. The existing 9 speed unit will remain available in lower trim configurations.

Honda Odyssey 10 speed transmission

Designated the WCX17, a cutaway version of the new transmission was on display at the SAE annual conference on Tuesday of this week, where it attracted a lot of attention from engineers at other companies. “It’s extremely compact,” said Dave Varda, a senior project engineer at GM. Chi Teck Lee, a GM transmission specialist, wondered if the shifting would feel busy, although why it would feel any busier than a 9 speed transmission is an interesting question.

Tom Sladek, Honda’s powertrain development leader, explained to the audience that designing a transmission with so many gears that would fit the confines of the Odyssey was a difficult task. He said that engineers focused on reducing the size of two key elements of the transmission’s internal parts — the clutches and the output gear.

“First, we were able to take the typical wet clutch and one-way clutch and put them in one component. And that saved about 25mm of packaging space,” Sladek said. “The other is a combination internal/external gear — which internally we call gear-on-gear — essentially what it is the output gear, and internal to that we have a ring gear from one of the planetary sets. That alone is able to save 45 mm of packaging space.”

The engine in an Odyssey fitted with the new transmission will turn only 1560 rpm at 70 miles per hour Sladek says, which will boost fuel economy while reducing engine noise. He also said the transmission is capable of skipping gears on downshifts. For instance, when merging into highway traffic. the transmission could shift from ninth gear to fifth gear to provide the needed burst of acceleration.

While Ford and GM have co-developed a ten speed transmission, it is for rear wheel drive vehicles where packaging constraints are not as demanding. Honda says it will invest $150 million to retool two US factories to build the new transmission which will be fitted to several Honda and Acura products over the next decade.

According to Automobile Magazine, $100 million will go toward a new assembly line and production modifications for Honda Precision Parts of Georgia, where production of the 10-speed has already begun. Another $49 million will go for new equipment and greater capacity at Honda’s factory in Russells Point, Ohio.

If you are a Trump supporter, that $150 million is a waste of money forced on Honda by clueless regulators hell bent on destroying the automotive industry. If you are an environmentalist, that $150 million is proof that automakers are fully capable of meeting the CAFE standards of tomorrow with technology available today. If you are an electric car enthusiasts, you could believe the $150 million is money that could have been better spent developing a compelling electric car. Take your pick.

Source: Automotive News


Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.