Discovery Guides Areas


Automotive Transmissions: Efficiently Transferring Power from Engine to Wheels
(Released January 2008)

  by Chao-Hsu Yao  


Key Citations




Semi-automatic Transmission


A semi-automatic transmission is a very advanced system, which still uses a clutch to perform the gear shift instead of a torque converter. Unlike the manual transmission, the computer does all of the clutch disengaging, gear shifting, and clutch engaging. This not only makes the gear shifting faster than manual transmission, but also prevents the vehicle from stalling when the car is stationary. Like a tiptronic transmission, a semi-automatic transmission can also be switched to manual mode to perform gear shifting at the drivers' wish. The two most common semi-automatic transmissions are direct shift transmission (aka dual-clutch transmission) and electrohydraulic manual transmission (aka sequential transmission).

The direct shift transmission was designed and developed by the Audi and Volkswagen auto groups. Figure 24 shows the structure of the direct shift transmission. Like a conventional manual transmission system, it uses a collar, synchronizer, and gear set to perform gear shift. The clutch set is like that inside the automatic planetary gear transmission system, which controls the gear ratio change. Unlike the conventional manual transmission system, there are two different gear/collar sets, with each connected to two different input/output shafts. One set contains odd (1st, 3rd, 5th . . .) gears, while the other contains even (2nd, 4th, 6th . . .) gears. It is just like two conventional manual transmission gear boxes in one. To automatically shift from 1st gear to 2nd gear, first the computer detects that the spinning speed of the input shaft is too high, and engages the 2nd gear's collar to the 2nd gear. The clutch then disengages from 1st gear's input shaft, and engages the 2nd gear's input shaft. Controlled by computer, the gear shift becomes extremely fast compared with a conventional manual transmission. Using direct contact of the clutch instead of fluid coupling also improves power transmission efficiency. Another advanced technology used for direct shift transmission allows it to perform "double clutching" by shifting the gear to neutral first, adjusting the spinning speed of the input shaft, and then shifting to the next gear. This makes gear shifting very smooth.

6 speed basic design
Figure 24: 6-Speed Direct-Shift Gear Box.

Another famous semi-automatic transmission is an electrohydraulic manual transmission (aka sequential transmission). The gear set is almost the same as the conventional transmission system, except that the shifting of the selector is not an 'H' pattern. Instead, all selector forks are connected to a drum (see Figure 25). The drum has several grooves, and each has a ball sliding in it. Each fork hooks up to a ball and can be moved forward and backward when the drum is turning (see Figure 26). Based on the pattern of the grooves on the drum, by turning the drum, each fork can move forward and backward in turn, which makes gear selection sequential. Therefore, it is impossible for an electrohydraulic manual transmission to perform a gear shift from 1st to 3rd or 4th to 2nd. The shifting must be sequential, like 1st'2nd'3rd'4th, or 4th'3rd'2nd'1st.

electrohydraulic manual transmission
Figure 25: Electrohydraulic Manual Transmission.

collar and fork
Figure 26: Collar and Fork Move When Drum is Turning.

Go To Comparison of Transmission Systems

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