We often tend to focus on alternatives to the internal combustion engine when discussing the future of transportation. While it's true that electric motors, batteries and hydrogen fuel cells are likely to play an increasingly large role in the future, there's little doubt that fossil-fuel-burning engines will remain the dominant technology powering our automobiles for at least the next few years.
This being the case, it's extremely important to continue finding new ways to improve the efficiency of the internal combustion engine and the transmission it's hooked up to. A few short decades ago, it was common to see automatic transmissions with as few as three forward gear ratios. Today, that figure is often doubled. Why does it matter? According to Jeff Lux, Transmissions Global Chief Engineer at GM:
Six-speeds provide the best of both worlds, delivering both improved fuel economy and performance. On average, a six-speed transmission will provide up to four percent improved fuel economy compared to a four-speed automatic transmission. In addition, a six-speed provides up to a seven percent improvement in 0-60 performance... Because six-speeds have a wider range of gear ratios to choose from, the engine speed can be optimized for the driving condition. The result is lower engine speeds for many conditions and better overall vehicle noise quality.There you have it. Click here to read more interesting tidbits about GM's future plans for the automatic transmission and click past the break for a video explaining how these modern transmissions work.
[Source: GM FastLane]