Ford has jumped into the current transmission wars with a patent filing for an 11-speed automatic transmission, according to documents Autoguide dug up just last week. The filing date was October of 2013, but the U.S. Patent Office didn’t publish the documents until now.
News of the 11-speed transmission shouldn’t be that surprising. After all, it’s only one gear short of the 10-speed automatic that will be made available for the 2017 F-150 Raptor. Word is that the 10-speed will then trickle through the rest of the F-150 model lineup and maybe beyond.
It’s possible that the 11-speed transmission won’t be used for trucks or SUVs at all, but instead would be applied only to front-wheel-drive cars that also have a transverse engine. That would put it in competition with the nine-speed automatics found in numerous models made by Fiat Chrysler and others. If that’s true you don’t have to fear that the Mustang will be outfitted with an 11-speed transmission, but the Focus and Fiesta might.
The big factor that’s driving the quest for transmissions with more gears is the different increasing government fuel economy standards around the world, including CAFE here in the United States. Many automakers view the technology as key to keeping abreast of the stringent fleet fuel economy requirements without having to use hybrid or fully-electric powertrains in big numbers.
Still, some people question if continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) aren’t the ultimate answer. That makes many car enthusiasts shudder at the thought, but modern CVTs are quite a bit different from the whiny old models. There are some other issues with using a CVT, which is why transmissions with tons of gears are becoming increasingly prevalent.
Just how many gears will be too many? For now, it seems like just when a limit is declared, someone pushes beyond it.