Dana gains transmission work

Design could boost passenger vehicle fuel efficiency by 10%


Dana Holding Corp. has received exclusive rights to develop a highly efficient transmission design for use in passenger vehicles.

The Mamuee-based auto parts manufacturer is licensing the technology for the NuVinci continuously variable transmission from Fallbrook Technologies Inc. in San Diego, which will retain ownership of the design. Fallbrook is also licensing its design to Allison Transmissions Inc. The three companies together announced their strategic relationship Thursday.

Fallbrook chief executive William G. Klehm III said the partnerships will bring his company’s technology to a much wider market. Currently, Fallbrook’s design has been limited to bicycle hubs.

“Fuel economy is what consumers are demanding, government is regulating, and car manufacturers are searching for,” Mr. Klehm said on a conference call announcing the partnership.

Dana chief executive Roger Wood said the technology will provide just that. Dana believes the design could boost fuel efficiency by as much as 8 to 10 percent in passenger vehicles.

As automakers march toward new corporate average fuel economy standards that will require a fleet average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, he sees a large potential market.

“There are going to need to be technologies deployed to achieve those very, very stringent regulations,” Mr. Wood said. “That fits very, very well in the time frame we’re talking about.”

Dana expects to start making the transmission for off-highway applications in three to five years and have it in passenger cars by the end of the decade.

Dana has exclusive license to develop the transmission for passenger vehicles and certain off-highway vehicles. Indianapolis-based Allison has exclusive rights to develop it for commercial vehicles, military applications, and certain off-highway and stationary equipment markets. Financial terms of the agreement were not released.

Continuously variable transmissions are not new, with several automakers — including Ford, Chrysler, Honda, and Nissan — regularly using them. By having an unlimited number of gear ratios, the transmissions are designed to provide better efficiency by keeping the engine running within its optimal power band.

But Mr. Klehm finds flaws in the current design. “CVTs have been around for a very long time, and every one we’ve looked at besides ours is expensive, delicate, and heavy,” he said.

Fallbrook’s NuVinci design varies somewhat from other current applications in that it uses a planetary design in which two rotating balls change the transmission’s speed ratio. The company says its design is more rugged — lending itself to more strenuous applications — and smaller, which reduces weight. Mr. Klehm also said his company’s design allows for better torque at low speeds, which is important for commercial vehicles. Officials from Dana and Allison said the technology is proven; it’s simply their job to bring it to make it work in their markets.

“This is not an engineering study or feasibility analysis,” Allison chief executive Lawrence E. Dewey said. “Our intention is to bring new and exciting products to the transportation industry.”

As a further part of the partnership, Dana and Allison are discussing the possibility of Dana being the exclusive manufacturer of parts for Allison’s NuVinci transmissions.

Contact Tyrel Linkhornat: tlinkhorn@theblade.comor 419-724-6134.