It’s been a while since the transmission wars have shown much heat—eight and nine speed transmissions are common, and we’ve all heard about development of 10-speeds, most notably for the upcoming 2017 Ford Raptor. Now, the Ford Motor Company [NYSE:F] is taking the tally up again, this time to 11.
The news comes by way of a patent filing unearthed by AutoGuide. The filing occurred in October, 2013.
Revealing a pretty simple diagram that would be much, much more complex to realize in actual production terms, the patent filing is straightforward: it’s a vehicle gearbox with 11 speeds.
Why the long slumber before this patent filing surfaced? Why haven’t we seen the Ford 11-speed in production yet?
The answer to both of those questions is: we may never see an 11-speed from Ford.
As with most other automakers, and in many other fields, companies often file patents on innovative ideas or areas of development as a matter of protection for a path the company might follow—or might not—as part of the normal course of business.
Even though eight-speeds are fairly common (and nearly every eight-speed manufacturer delivers very good, smooth-operating gearboxes, nine-speeds are less common and more commonly complained of, for a variety of reasons.
Experts as lofty as the Stefan Sommer, CEO of ZF, a major industry transmission supplier, have previously pronounced nine-speed transmissions as the “natural limit,” of the need for more speeds. Whether the market will defy the logic of the engineer—or whether the engineer’s logic will be updated—remains to be seen.
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