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GM’s new 10-speed automatic transmission: A look inside

21st May 2016 8:00 am

The new 10-speed auto gearbox from the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 has been critically acclaimed to push the car's performance and efficiency to a new level.

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General Motor's 10-speed gearbox, is an all-new design – and the first-ever application in a car – with a wider, 7.39 overall gear-ratio spread, that enables the new Camaro ZL1’s supercharged engine to remain at optimal engine speeds during upshifts.

“With world-class shift times on par with the world’s best dual-clutch transmissions and the refinement that comes only from a true automatic, the 10-speed delivers incomparable performance on and off the track,” said Dan Nicholson, vice-president, GM Global Propulsion Systems. “It also leverages the experience of our other multispeed transmissions to deliver that performance with greater efficiency as its use expands into other vehicles.” The wider overall ratio enables a lower numerical top-gear ratio – an attribute that reduces engine speed on the highway, which contributes to greater fuel efficiency than a comparable eight-speed transmission. Improvements in spin loss complement the optimised gearing, further enhancing efficiency. And while the Camaro ZL1 will be the first GM vehicle to offer the new 10-speed automatic, designed for rear-wheel-drive applications, it will be available in eight additional vehicles by 2018.

Some of the other highlights include

Creative packaging – The 10-speed is approximately the same size as the six- and eight-speed transmissions, minimising changes to vehicle interfaces.

Quicker shifts than a dual-clutch transmission – testing has shown faster upshift times than the Porsche PDK dual-clutch transmission. In fact, the 1-2 upshift is 36-percent quicker than the PDK, while the 2-3 and 3-4 upshifts are 27-percent and 26-percent quicker, respectively.

Reduced spin losses – due to only two non-applied clutches – the same number as the eight-speed – as well as other design features, the 10-speed automatic has lower friction that contributes to greater fuel efficiency over GM’s six- and eight-speed automatics. New ultra-low viscosity transmission fluid also reduces friction, while an internal thermal bypass allows the transmission to warm up faster – attributes that enhance fuel efficiency.

GM-developed controller – It is the latest transmission to use an all-new, GM-developed control system, with performance calibrations tailored specifically for different vehicles. 

Architectural features and packaging

Thousands of hours of computer-aided engineering analyses were made during the development of the Hydra-Matic 10-speed transmission, driving a comparatively compact design envelope comparable to the eight-speed automatic.

A one-piece aluminium case with an integral bell housing helps reduce weight and enhance powertrain stiffness, while a unique 260mm, integral turbine clutch torque converter design reduces complexity and helps make the converter thinner, which contributes to the transmission’s packaging.

The 10-speed has four simple gearsets and six clutches: two brake clutches and four rotating clutches. That’s only one more clutch than the eight-speed, despite having two more forward gears, contributing further to the compact packaging, while also improving spin losses to enhance fuel efficiency.

A unique triple-clutch assembly in the middle of the 10-speed’s architecture is a primary enabler for packaging 10-speed content in the same space as GM’s six- and eight-speed transmissions. The 10-speed also features a variable-displacement vane pump, which optimises transmission fluid pressure, based on speed and load, to enhance efficiency.

7.39 ratio spread and faster upshifts

The new 10-speed’s greater overall performance and efficiency are due primarily to its wider 7.39 overall gear ratio spread, which enhances off-the-line performance with a more aggressive first gear ratio than GM’s eight-speed automatic. Smaller steps between the gears also help the engine maintain the optimal speed for maximum power at almost all speeds, especially when exiting a corner on a track.

Adaptive shift controls such as Performance Algorithm Shifting and Driver Shift Control enhance performance driving. Performance Algorithm Shifting (PAS) monitors how assertively the driver is using engine output to determine at what engine speed to upshift or downshift. Driver Shift Control allows the driver to shift the transmission via the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Electronic safeguards prevent over-revving if the wrong gear position is selected, but relies on the driver to make upshifts or downshifts. Gear changes are mainly executed with clutch-to-clutch action, where an 'on-coming' clutch is engaged and an 'off-going' clutch is released in a precise manner to achieve the ratio change. Certain key shifts, however, are made with a freewheeling action, such as 3-1 downshifts, where a plate clutch is actively disengaged while a mechanical freewheeler clutch automatically engages with optimum synchronization. The torque converter is 260mm in diameter and features a lock-up clutch. It also uses electronic controlled capacity clutch (ECCC) technology, which employs a small, regulated amount of slip to dampen out engine pulses for a smoother running drivetrain, especially during shifting.

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