Giving birth to a new powertrain architecture is neither easy nor inexpensive, as GM, DaimlerChrysler, and BMW are demonstrating by dropping $1B on their "two-mode" hybrid technology. The costs for developing the transmission will not be evenly divided among the manufacturers, but instead will be split according to the number of units that each intends to consume. GM and DCX will opt for both RWD and FWD versions, while the boys from Bavaria are only interested in driving the rear wheels (presumably, we will not see a hybrid Mini). GM will build the RWD version, while DCX is likely to tackle the FWD transaxle.
The system distinguishes itself from currently available system by offering operation that's similar to Toyota's electronic CVT (eCVT, or "power-split device") during standing starts and at low speeds (where internal combustion engines cannot operate in an efficient manner), but then offering a transition to stepped-gear operation at higher speeds. The system is said to be more suitable for operation at typical highway speeds, as it doesn't require the large amount of electrical coupling that is currently required by single-ratio eCVTs. It also allows for heavy towing, which makes it particularly useful for trucks and SUVs.
[Source: Automotive News; subscription required]