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Motorsport gearbox specialist looks to EV market

04 January 2011

More readily associated with motorsport transmission systems, gearbox specialist Xtrac wants to see its ‘Instantaneous Gear change System’ embraced by the mainstream automotive sector, particularly electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers, for whom ‘efficiency’ is a byword

The motorsport transmission specialist Xtrac has applied its engineering skills to design and develop a seamless gear change configuration known as IGS or Instantaneous Gear change System. The race car technology, which is protected by worldwide patents, is now ready for commercial development in the automotive sectors. This novel system avoids the cost, mass and complexity of a dual clutch transmission (DCT) and initial applications will focus on electric vehicles.

UK based Xtrac, with satellite motorsport operations in Indianapolis and North Carolina, is already heavily involved in developing advanced driveline technology for prototype electric and hybrid vehicles. The company says its latest innovation could help further improve the efficiency of electric vehicles as well as conventional powertrains.

A conventional gearbox has the disadvantage that it is necessary to interrupt the engine torque to change gear, which compromises vehicle performance.  By providing a seamless gear change the IGS mechanism enhances vehicle performance. Its application in areas such as motorbikes, cars, trucks and buses would enable these vehicles to consume less fuel and reduce their CO2 emissions.

Details of Xtrac’s simple mechanical system were revealed for the first time to the automotive industry at the International CTI Symposium and Exhibition being in Berlin (November 29 - December 2 2010), an annual forum that regularly attracts key decision makers from the industry. Adrian Moore, technical director at Xtrac, who explained the finer points of IGS in a detailed engineering presentation to transmission engineers at the symposium, takes up the story.

“When introducing new technology to the automotive mainstream it’s important to have progressed beyond the initial research and development phase. Car makers like to see practical demonstrations to show that the technology actually works and is more than a concept. With our motorsport experience we have the advantage of two years of racing IGS with professional teams.”

Mr Moore went on to explain how Xtrac has integrated a ratchet and pawl mechanism between each gear hub and the main shaft so that two consecutive gear ratios can be selected and engaged simultaneously, but with only one set of gears driving. The company is currently undertaking a study to implement IGS into a two-speed EV transmission with the aim of ensuring the optimum performance of the vehicle. Mr Moore says that while there is a phase of test and development and NVH refinement work to follow, his company believes this is a suitable initial application, and feasibility studies are already being pursued with a number of vehicle manufacturers.

Established for 26 years, Xtrac is a world leader in the design and manufacture of gearboxes, differentials and driveline components, which are used throughout international motorsport and in particular within F1, IndyCar, Touring Car, Rallying, Rally Raid, GRAND-AM and many forms of sportscar racing, including a major involvement in the Le Mans 24 hours, Daytona 24 hour and Sebring 12 hour races.

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