UK-based transmission engineering and control specialist Vocis wants to take electric vehicles in another direction, one with dual clutch transmissions. Vocis says its dual clutch transmissions provide seamless shifting and up to 15 percent improvement in EV efficiency. Vocis' DCT is currently on display in a Mercedes-Benz Vito minibus demonstration vehicle.

Many EV powertrans use a single e-machine (motor/generator). Vocis uses two smaller e-machines, each driving a separate input shaft. It's described as an eDCT (electric dual clutch transmission) and resembles a DCT configuration – but with two motors instead of twin clutches.

A multi-speed transmission offers faster acceleration and a higher top speed than a single e-machine. This improves hill climbing and pull-away performance, and its higher ratios in the transmission can provide more efficient high-speed cruising.

The multi-speed transmission can also help reduce the cost, because a smaller battery battery pack combined with the multi-speed transmission can deliver the same traveling range as a larger battery on a single-speed EV. Smaller battery, lower cost.

The eDCT was designed with modular architecture to make it pliable for a wide range of vehicle types, said Richard Taylor, technical director of Vocis Driveline Controls. The motors can be installed parallel to each other or on opposite sides of the unit, providing layout flexibility. Vocis' second-generation unit has received partial funding from the Niche Vehicle Network, a specialist car and chassis manufacturer association. It also was nominated for an SMMT Automotive Innovation Award last year.

Vocis first showed off its EV two-speed transmission during the Low Carbon Vehicle Event 2011 at Rockingham Motor Speedway in the UK. It was fitted for yet another minibus – this one a prototype electric minibus developed with powertrain supplier Zytek.
New multi-speed EV transmission launched in demonstrator vehicle

Second generation eDCT unit to be made available for press and industry evaluation

During the coming month transmission engineering and control specialist, Vocis, will unveil an electric demonstrator vehicle fitted with the latest iteration of its novel, multi-speed, seamless-shift transmission. The demonstration vehicle, a Mercedes-Benz Vito minibus, will be made available for evaluation by interested parties from industry and the press.

The innovative Vocis transmission uses the principles of dual clutch transmissions (DCTs) to provide seamless shifting and up to 15 percent improvement in electric vehicle efficiency. The second generation unit has been developed with partial funding from the Niche Vehicle Network and was shortlisted for an SMMT Automotive Innovation award in 2012.

Unlike many EV powertrains that use a single e-machine (motor/generator) the Vocis multi-speed transmission works with two smaller e-machines, each driving a separate input shaft. Described as an eDCT (electric DCT) the unique transmission resembles a DCT configuration but with two motors instead of twin clutches.

"We have used a modular architecture for the second-generation transmission, used in the demonstrator, which means the motors can be installed parallel to each other or on opposite sides of the unit," explained Richard Taylor, technical director of Vocis Driveline Controls. "This flexibility of layout, plus the scalability of the modular concept, makes the design suitable for a wide range of vehicle types."

The Vito minibus was previously fitted with the company's 2SED two-speed transmission and competed successfully in the RAC Future Car Challenge, winning the Most Energy Efficient Light Commercial Vehicle Prototype class. The vehicle was subsequently modified, now accommodating a Vocis eDCT with two 25kW traction motors and the capability to accept two 35kW motors in a future upgrade.

Besides improving efficiency, a multi-speed transmission leads directly to faster acceleration and a higher top speed. By improving hill climbing and pull-away performance, a multi-speed transmission can increase the load carrying capacity of an electric delivery vehicle. The higher ratios in the transmission can then be specified to provide more efficient high speed cruising, enabling EVs to mix more easily with other vehicles on highways.

The improved powertrain efficiency of the multi-speed transmission can also help reduce the cost of the battery pack, usually the biggest single expense within an EV powertrain. A smaller battery pack, in combination with the multi-speed transmission, can provide the same vehicle range as a larger battery with only a single speed.

Electronic control enables full driveline integration which, combined with the multiple ratios, provides the facility for strategies such as automatic ratio optimisation to maximise range and extend battery life by making deep discharging less frequent. It also allows the implementation of alternative calibrations in order to tailor the feel and performance of the vehicle to the driver's personal preferences.

Different strategies are used to prioritise economy or performance, or any transition between the two. In this respect, sharing torque between the motors offers shift opportunities beyond those achievable with a DCT. The design allows the distribution of drive and regeneration energy between the two e-machines to be optimised at all times, enabling torque infill to be provided during each gear change, resulting in seamless shifting. "The torque infill makes gearshifts so imperceptible that the first customer for the system asked to be shown that shifting was taking place because he couldn't feel it when driving," said Taylor.