Want more performance or range? You got it.
The promise of the electric car extends much further than just helping the people of this world get around without polluting as much as they do when using gasoline-powered vehicles. Beyond that, EVs are supposed to simplify the ownership process, because even though they technically do require an owner to consciously plug in their vehicles and take longer breaks to charge when on a road trip, EV's also don't require the maintenance routines that their internal combustion engine counterparts do.
While gasoline or diesel-powered cars have thousands of moving parts that require oil changes, need occasional tune-ups, and pack complex mechanisms like differentials or transmissions within the body, electric cars don't.
That is a threat to the livelihood of companies that build transmissions, companies like ZF. Except maybe not. As Cnet reports, the large auto parts supplier has just unveiled a two-speed transmission designed exclusively for electric cars. At first glance, it seems unnecessary because EVs usually don't need transmissions. After all, they make maximum torque throughout their rev range and have no trouble accelerating from a dead stop without help from a transmission.
Gasoline and diesel engines, on the other hand, need gears to generate enough torque to get off the line, which is why all ICE-powered cars have a transmission. But that doesn't mean EVs couldn't at least benefit from some sort of torque manipulation, hence, the new gearbox. ZF's new transmission is set to shift at 43 mph by default, but the shift timing can be programmed for a different speed depending on the needs of the automaker.
The beauty of ZF's 2-speed is that it can also have its ratios swapped to optimize for different efficiency or performance targets depending on what an automaker needs. For example, the transmission can be loaded with a gear that helps boost range by up to 5%, allowing automakers to either get more range out of their cars or cut production costs by installing smaller batteries without hurting range ratings. The new 2-speed also has benefits on the performance end of things.
That's because, while EV's hardly have trouble getting off the line quickly (just look at the Model S P100D's 0-60 mph time for proof of that), they are more limited when it comes to reaching high top speeds. ZF's transmission could change that by enhancing the top end of its car's performance. And since ZF has designed it to be compact (there's less benefit to an electric car if it still has to house a bulky transmission), it's not as hard to convince automakers to install it. Only time will tell if the rest of the industry lines up to buy it.