While I was walking down the aisles at the SAE World Congress last week in Detroit, I stopped by the Zeroshift booth to speak with some of the engineers and salespeople from the company. On display was a small demonstration of how their replacement for the common synchro's inside manual transmissions works. I was rather fascinated by the device, to be honest. I could apply torque by turning the output shaft of the transmission and manipulate the two gears in the transmission with my other hand. I can back up their claims, at least in this small example, that the shifting is quick, with no loss of torque while in between shifts. There is a seamless hand-off from one gear to the next. I was also impressed by the simplicity of the design. This is apparently the second version of the transmission that has been developed, and was made to fit inside a standard transmission. The system is also much simpler than other automated manual gearboxes currently on the market.
The salesperson on hand was able to verify that we will soon see versions of their transmission in new vehicles, starting with motorcycles. He indicated that the motorcycle in question would come from overseas, but would be sold in America. I would not be surprised to see automotive applications showing up soon after. The Zeroshift team also mentioned that they had won an engineering award at the SAE show. Why is this a green technology? A certain amount of fuel is saved by using this transmission, as there is never a loss of torque to the output shaft. Think of what you do when you shift a manual transmission. First you step on the clutch, then change gears and lastly let off the clutch and continue on your merry way. Most drivers instinctively smooth out the shifting process by attempting to match the engine speed from shift to shift, and there is a certain bit of "lag-time" where the engine is running at higher than required RPM's and is uncoupled from the driving wheels. This is eliminated with the Zeroshift transmission. In stop and go driving, this could add up to significant savings.
Until the automakers in general start to make a broad switch to petroleum alternatives and electric vehicles, further refining of the existing, established solutions, like the manual transmission, may be the best short-term solution to improving our fuel mileage and reducing harmful emissions.