Allison Transmission and Dana Holding Corporation have established strategic relationships with Fallbrook Technologies to develop and commercialize a high-efficiency transmission design using continuously variable planetary (CVP) technology.

Fallbrook's NuVinci CVP technology provides an infinite number of gear ratios while significantly reducing the size and weight of the transmission device. Potential applications range from automotive, off-road, commercial vehicle and stationary drive transmissions to air conditioning, supercharger and other component drive applications.

On a September 13 conference call, Lawrence Dewey, chairman, president and CEO of Allison and Roger Wood, president and CEO of Dana, announced they had signed separate licensing agreements with Fallbrook to bring the CVP technology to their respective markets. As well, Dewey and Wood announced the two companies had signed a letter of intent to explore a strategic alliances through which Dana would exclusively manufacture transmission components with NuVinci CVP technology for Allison.

"We're eager to begin exploring how we can leverage our manufacturing synergies so we can deliver this technology to our customers around the world," Dana's Wood told reporters on the call. "We'll spend the next two to three years optimizing the technology across various vehicle platforms. We anticipate full production of off-highway transmission with Nuvinci components within three to five years, and implementation in passenger vehicle before the end of the decade."

Allison and Dana have each agreed to cooperate with Fallbrook on engineering initiatives including product development and prototype testing and the commercialization of the Nuvinci-based next-generation CVP transmissions.

Lawrence Dewey of Allison said his company will focus its efforts on commercial on- and off-highway vehicles and stationary industrial equipment.

"Allison has invested in a non-controlling equity stake in Fallbrook Technologies," he said. "Allison has also licensed the exclusive right from Fallbrook to use their CVP technology to develop and commercialize primary drivetrain transmissions for Allison's end markets -- commercial, military, and stationary equipment."

Under a separate agreement, Dana will hold an exclusive license from Fallbrook to engineer and produce transmission components and other advanced powertrain solutions with the NuVinci CVP technology for passenger cars and certain off-highway vehicles in the end markets that Dana serves.

The breakthrough NuVinci continuously variable transmission (CVT) technology is a potential "game changer" when it comes to today's transmission applications.

It is a continuously variable planetary and changes the way mechanical power is transmitted to improve the performance and flexibility of transmissions for a greener, cleaner future, the press release says. NuVinci CVP technology provides improved transmission performance and flexibility in everything from bicycles, automotive accessory drives, electric vehicles, lawn care equipment to small wind turbines and beyond.

"The basic principle of the Nuvinci CVP technology, when incorporated into a vehicle drivetrain, is the transmission offers smooth seamless shifting with no steps between gears and an infinite number of forward speeds," says William Klehm, chairman and CEO of Fallbrook. "Maintaining an engine's output at its most efficient point translates into a major leap forward in fuel efficiency and reduced vehicle emissions. It also reduces drivetrain complexity without compromising performance."

Gearless Transmission

Transmissions take raw power and turn it into managed power. In the past, that process has been hamstrung by physical gears, Klehm points out. "We're breaking away from the tyranny of gears. Our continuously variable planetary is a new breed of transmission that artfully handles instantaneous torque.

"We have eliminated the gears common to conventional transmissions and replaced them with a series of balls, two discs and a mechanism that changes the contact angle between the balls and the discs. Instead of having some fixed number of gears, our Nuvinci technology provides an unlimited number of ratios by changing the contact area across the surface of the balls. The engine can operate closer to its so-called sweet spot, while the transmission adjusts for the torque and speed demands of the driver."

There were no firm predictions of potential fuel economy gains, but both Allison and Dana see an "inventory of opportunity" to reduce the size and weight of the vehicle's transmission or to increase its functionality while dramatically decreasing complexity.

"The package is significantly smaller, and there a corresponding reduction in weight and complexity," says Wood. "These provide a benefit to the customer that will be proven over the next couple of years, as well as the overall value."

"The technology should bring fuel efficiency gains that can be considered significant. Obviously it will be duty-cycle dependent. That will be borne out thought the testing," noted Dewey.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed during the press conference.

"The amount of Allison's ownership in Fallbrook is not publicly available because the terms of the Fallbrook investment did not meet reporting requirements set forth by the securities and exchange commission," said Allison's Dewey.

For more info on the continually variable planetary transmission, see Fallbrook Technologies..