Honda's New Dual-Clutch Transmission
Saving fuel one shift at a time.
Manufacturers around the globe are scurrying to up their products’ fuel economy. Congress recently passed new corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards requiring each carmaker’s average fuel consumption to be at least 35.5 mpg by 2020. The U.S. isn’t the only market demanding better efficiency from its auto titans, as the EU and Japan are also tightening the mileage screws. As a result, we’re starting to see a rash of new tech. While Ford has been making big waves with direct injection and turbocharging, there are similar gains to be made in the transmission department. Companies from Chrysler to Kia have been offering constant-velocity-type transmissions for years now, and more than a few makes have released dual-clutch gearboxes.
Surprisingly enough, Honda has completely dodged the dual-clutch phenomenon – at least until now. The company just announced that its own version of the transmission will be available on next year’s VFR motorcycles.
If you’re thinking a bike is an odd place for research and development of a traditionally bulky gearbox, you’re right. Dual-clutch transmissions use one clutch for the even gears and another for the odd cogs, allowing for very fast gear changes and a constant flow of power from the engine. Unfortunately, it also requires complex circuitry to control the mechanical chaos – taking up space and adding weight to the equation.
Honda has tackled these problems with a slew of new innovations to make the transmission both smaller and lighter. Using two input shafts and inline clutches, the gearbox is both lightweight and compact, and Honda has tucked the transmission’s electronic hardware under the engine cover to free up even more room. Like all dual-clutch transmissions, Honda’s example has three modes. In automatic mode, the transmission shifts without any input from the driver, while a sport automatic mode holds engine revs longer and a manual mode gives the rider the option of shifting the transmission like a standard 6-speed manual.
Honda has a long history of proving technology in its motorcycles before moving the advancements to its passenger cars. The company says that if the motorcycle gearbox does well, we may see a new passenger car dual-clutch transmission soon. The option would show up in Acura products before finding its way into Civics and Accords, so don’t go harassing your local salesman just yet. Still, with CAFE standards looming on the horizon, we wouldn’t be too surprised to see a dual-clutch Honda within the next five or six years.
(Image source: Honda)
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