F1 China Grand Prix completed over the weekend. Kimi Räikkönen representing Ferrari ran unchallenged to the flag, team mate Felipe Massa running third. Fernando Alonso was second. As demonstrated by the Formula 1 cars, the application of automated transmission technology has conquered almost totally the world of automobile racing. And from high-level competitions, this technology is experiencing a wide distribution on a global scale, even at the standard production level.
In this area, Magneti Marelli is present with the AMT Automated Manual Transmission – also known as “Selespeed” – derived directly from Formula 1 technology. AMT is an electro-hydraulic automation technology for manual transmissions that combines driving comfort and a reduction in fuel consumption and emissions. It can be fitted on any gearbox, with production costs that are lower compared to traditional automatic transmissions.
Launched by Magneti Marelli in 1997, through a process of constant technological evolution the AMT-Selespeed has now reached the “mechanotronics” generation, so called because it brings together, for the first time ever in a single kit, the electronic control part and the hydraulic transmission actuation part, thus allowing for considerably improved performances, both in terms of speed and gear shifting comfort.
The AMT-Selespeed is fitted on many small and medium-sized cars made by leading car manufacturers, as well as on some of the highest-performance sports models and supercars such as Audi, Aston Martin, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati.
The AMT is based on an electronic control unit and hydraulic actuation system that supervise the use of the clutch and the shifting of gears, thus allowing the driver to shift gears without using the clutch, in sequential mode or completely in automatic.
The AMT technology is characterised by a constant improvement in its performance. The shifting times, for example, went from 630 milliseconds in 2001 to an average of 280 milliseconds for “normal” production models up to the 120 milliseconds of the top sports cars. In the next two years, this time is expected to fall to 60 milliseconds, in other words, Formula 1 performances obtained with standard production transmissions.
In addition, with regards to the air pollution issues that are of topical interest in China, the electronic optimisation of the shifting offered by AMT also results in a reduction in fuel consumption and emissions, specifically CO2, not only compared to cars equipped with traditional automatic transmissions, but also those with manual transmissions. In some of the best applications of the AMT on standard production models, a 5% reduction in fuel consumption was recorded compared to models of the same car equipped with manual transmission, along with a reduction in emissions equal to 5 g/km of CO2.
In a context such as China, where the automatic transmission solution, in its different technological versions, is starting to be more and more requested by the public, the AMT automated transmission represents a competitive technology thanks to a particularly favourable price-performance ratio, the driving comfort and the characteristics of reduced fuel consumption, polluting emissions and CO2. The recent Memorandum of Understanding signed by Magneti Marelli and Chery Automobile Co. Ltd falls within this sphere, as it concerns the creation of a joint venture in China aimed at the production of hydraulic components for the AMT, which is expected to be operational by the spring of 2008.
Chery was the first Chinese manufacturer to adopt Magneti Marelli’s Selespeed system (in 2004) to automate the transmissions of the cars it markets. The components made by the new company will be fitted by Chery on its cars equipped with automated transmissions, and they will be made available to other carmakers as well.