Does the future of transmissions start with a bicycle?

Those of you who scoff at those bicyclists pedaling furiously down the road take note. An relatively new transmission design developed for the bicycling world may someday put the power to the wheels of your dump truck, or backhoe, or electric vehicle–maybe just about anything that uses an engine to move.

This morning Allison Transmission, Dana and Fallbrook Technologies announced the formation of a strategic relationship to develop, manufacture and commercialize high efficiency transmissions for passenger vehicles, commercial trucks and off-highway equipment.

The rotating balls engage input and output plates at different angles to vary speed and torque.The rotating balls engage input and output plates at different angles to vary speed and torque.

The technological driver at the heart of this collaboration is Fallbrook’s NuVinci CVP technology. Originally developed for bicycles, CVP stands for continuously variable planetary, and while it performs the same function as a continuously variable transmission, it does so with a radically different design that has nothing in common with the pulley and belt systems used on CVTs. 

Rather, the NuVinci CVP uses a series of rotating balls that engage input and output discs to mediate the relationship between speed and torque. Tilting the balls changes their contact diameters and varies the speed ratio. According to Bill Keihm, Fallbrook’s president and CEO, the CVP design is less complex, lighter weight, less expensive, more fuel efficient and smaller than traditional CVTs and other transmissions.

Of equal significance to Allison and Dana is the fact that the NuVinci CVP scales up in size and capacity–what works for bicycles should also work with every thing from golf carts to off-road vehicles. 

There’s still a lot of engineering to be done. Production of NuVinci equipped off-highway transmissions in markets served by Dana is still three to five years out, say company officials. Implementation in passenger and commercial vehicles is anticipated by the end of the decade. 

Dana will hold an exclusive license from Fallbrook to engineer and produce components with the NuVinci CVP technology for passenger and certain off-highway vehicles in the end markets Dana serves. For Allison Transmissions’ end markets Dana and Allison have signed a letter of intent to explore a strategic alliance through which Dana would exclusively manufacture transmission components with NuVinci technology for Allison.