According to a new Automotive News report, by the numbers, about one percent of new vehicles were equipped with a CVT in 2005. By 2010, that number of new vehicles in the U.S. grew to seven percent, thanks largely to Nissan, not to mention an increase in the number of hybrid models sold in America (most of which are fitted with the technology). Experts at IHS Automotive now predict that percentage will more than double by 2016 to 16 percent.
The belt-and-pulley transmission can adjust to an engine's torque in an infinite number of ways, making it more efficient than traditional gearboxes. But CVTs have become the bane of many enthusiasts and critics because of a number of undesirable characteristics – namely the unpleasant 'rubber band' sound they emit under hard acceleration.
According to Automotive News, Japanese carmakers appear especially interested in adding CVTs to their lineups. Honda is widely expected to offer a CVT on its next-generation four-cylinder Accord, Toyota may include a CVT on its future Corolla, and the CVT stalwarts at Nissan introduced its 2013 Altima earlier this year with an upgraded CVT that helps it achieve 38 miles per gallon on the highway.
While CVTs continue to improve, some providing faux programed "shift points" through sport programs or paddle shifters, they remain a non-starter with most enthusiasts we talk to. Further, critics like us can't help but note that with the advent of newer, lighter automatics and dual-clutch gearboxes with more and more speeds (eight speeds are becoming increasingly common, and nine- and ten-speed autos cogswappers on the horizon), the efficiency advantages of the CVT aren't as impressive.
We'll obviously need some sort of pulley mechanism to drag us into the future.