Analysis

Why ZF thinks it’s time to go automated

Automated transmissions in trucks are gaining popularity, says ZF Services Middle East

PHOTO: Fleet owners are seeing advantages in automated transmissions in terms of driver comfort and fuel savings. Credit: Shutterstock

Manual transmission is still the norm for heavy vehicles in the GCC, but fleet owners are gradually recognising the benefits of switching to automated transmission. It’s a trend felt most acutely by ZF, which supplies automated transmissions and other driveline and chassis components to a wide range of OEMs.

Dr Khalid Sabbah, managing director of ZF Services Middle East, which provides after-market support for ZF components to fleet customers, says they’re seeing gradual movement towards automated transmissions for heavy vehicles.

Fleet owners see it in terms of driver comfort and fuel savings, says Sabbah. “Fleets are becoming more and more aware and sensitive on the topic of consumption, prices, fuel saving and so on, so we see more of these products here in the market.”

Automatic-style transmissions have high penetration in other automotive sectors, notably passenger vehicles and city buses, and fleet buyers in the truck industry are increasingly aware of the benefits of taking the responsibility for changing gears out of their drivers’ hands.

ZF’s AS Tronic automated transmission is used by a number of OEMs and is performing well in the market, says Sabbah. In March, the company announced that it had manufactured one million units of the AS Tronic since production began at ZF’s main factory in Friedrichshafen in 1997.

With ZF Friedrichshafen AG spending close to $1 billion on R&D in 2014, it’s no surprise that there’s already a next-generation automated transmission product beyond the AS Tronic.

The TraXon is a modular transmission that can be tailored to suit a wide variety of vehicle applications. Available in 12- or 16-speed versions, the TraXon can transmit torques well above 3,000Nm.

It also offers average noise reduction of 6dB compared to the AS Tronic, and is equipped with the PreVision GPS, a feature that links up the transmission with GPS data, enabling it to know in advance when to shift gears based on the terrain ahead. This helps increase performance and reduce fuel consumption.

“The special thing about TraXon is its modular design. The all-new transmission can be linked to five modules and therefore can be used in various applications. We believe that within the coming years we will see this transmission being used more and more, also in the local market here,” says Sabbah.

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