ZF 8-Speed Transmission
ZF, the transmission company, showed its 8-speed automatic gearbox in the expo hall next door to where the expo's seminars were taking place. While we've become used to transmissions with more gears, this unit held a surprise that points to another intermediate technology toward going fully electric.
Beyond functioning as an automatic transmission, the conventional torque converter in this unit can be swapped out for an electric motor, making it a hybrid transmission. This technology greatly simplifies the integration of hybrid technologies into existing vehicle lines. For example, if a manufacturer wanted to add a hybrid edition to an existing vehicle line (say a BMW X5), the builder could select one of their current engines then add the ZF hybrid transmission, a starter/generator unit (that enables an engine to immediately restart after a fuel-saving Auto Stop), and a battery module. Voila ... a new X5 Hybrid is born. Fuel savings would be in the double digits.
The Michelin and ZF technologies demonstrate the type of innovation coming from the supplier-side of the business. Expect to see more ideas in the coming months.