Hybrid cars must have automatic transmissions. Computer control how much electric power is used at any given moment and humans messing around with gears would introduce unwanted variables that would reduce the efficiency. That is not going to change, but now Hyundai created the world’s first Active Shift Control, which should make hybrids more exciting.
Well, ok, hybrids are not going to be very exciting anyway. It is possible – there are several hybrid supercars on the market and they are both fast and incredibly fun to drive. However, more casual cars are designed with efficiency and not fun in mind. The Hyundai’s new automatic transmission with Active Shift Control technology is no exception – it seeks to cut gear-shift times by 30%.
Shift speeds depend on many factors, including differences in rotation speed. For example, engine may be spinning at a different RPM than the transmission, which will slow down the gear-shift time. Active Shift Control monitors the gearbox 500 times per second and then adjusts the transmission rotation speed to for faster shift times. This should solve the problem of hybrids having painfully slow shift times.
Hybrid cars are designed to be efficient, which is why they don’t have conventional torque converters. This helps saving at least a little bit of weight and reduces losses in transmission, but makes for longer shift times. And that is just not fun at all. Longer shift times are smooth enough, but they make the car less fun to drive, less responsive and more annoying in general, especially in situations demanding more torque.
It is possible to increase shift times with currently available technology, but that either makes for more efficiency losses or jerky shift. Hyundai solved this issue by using electronics. Active Shift Control applies new control logic software to the Hybrid Control Unit aligning the rotational speeds of the engine and transmission. This makes for a faster and smoother shift, which is also more fun for the driver.
KyoungJoon Chang, Vice President and Head of Powertrain Control System Group of Hyundai Motor Group, said: “The development of world’s first ASC technology is a remarkable innovation which incorporates precise motor control to automatic transmission. It will not only save fuel but also provide a more fun driving experience for our customers”.
Hybrids are going to be exciting one day. Strict regulations on emissions are pushing car manufacturers to make more fuel efficient cars. This will touch sports cars as well and they just cannot have slow shifting transmissions. In fact, in sportier vehicles, efficiency is not the main criteria – it is ok if a sports hybrid burns more fuel. But, hopefully, Hyundai’s Active Shift Control will bring more fun to more casual drives.