More and more car manufacturers have begun to take into account the fuel needs of consumers.
It is not unusual to find a large number of vehicle models with continuously variable transmissions (CVTs), as these offer better gas mileage than automatic transmissions. CVTs are a type of automatic transmission that allows your car to change seamlessly and continuously through different gear ratios.
You will find CVTs in car models such as Nissan, Subaru, Toyota and Audi.
CVTs are also used in power tools like drills and other smaller vehicles like snowmobiles and golf carts. The low manufacturing costs of CVTs make them a better alternative to automatic transmissions.
What is the difference between a manual, automatic and continuously variable transmission?
The first transmissions used in vehicles were standard or manual. These transmissions, commonly known as stick shifts, allowed the driver to manually shift through the gears while pushing down the clutch. In manually shifted vehicles, the clutch connects the engine to the drive axle and wheels and transmits power from the engine to the drive axle and wheels, so that the engine pauses while the clutch is still engaged.
The clutch separates the flywheel from the transmission. If the clutch is used correctly, the engine can continue to operate even when the wheels have come to a complete stop, thus causing the problem of stalling. Despite this disadvantage, many people still think that manual cars are a better option than automatic cars.
Traditional Automatic Transmissions (AT)
Automatic transmissions shift gears automatically, allowing the driver to drive either faster or slower simply by accelerating or applying the brake. Although they are easy to use, they are known to waste engine power and use more gas than their manual counterparts.
Vehicles with automatic transmissions have torque converters instead of a clutch, which eliminates the direct connection between the engines and drive axles. This eliminates the risk of stalling that manual car drivers face.
Continuously Variable Transmissions/CVT
A CVT is a more complex and computer-controlled version of the automatic transmission that offers the driver the same fuel economy as a manual transmission. Unlike its predecessors, the CVT uses belts to continuously adjust the transmission ratio, making the car run more efficiently.
How does a CVT work?
A simple CVT uses two conical pulleys and a steel belt. A hydraulic cylinder controls the diameter between the two pulleys so that the steel belt can transmit the power between the two pulleys, continuously adjusting the overall transmission ratio. The computer-controlled transmission is its greatest advantage, as it allows the engine to maintain the speed at the point where it generates the most power.
This increases the efficiency of the car and gives the car owner a 6 percent better fuel economy than an automatic transmission.
Pros of a CVT
- Compact: A CVT transmission has no physical gears such as automatic and manual transmissions; it uses a belt and pulley system to shift continuously through continuous ratios. The design makes it light and compact and suitable for vehicles with smaller bodies.
- Fuel-Efficient: A CVT transmission can recover and store energy, allowing it to accelerate faster while conserving engine power. The engine does not work harder at higher speeds and reduces fuel consumption. Similar to its manual counterpart, a CVT is lightweight because it has fewer moving parts, which also helps reduce the engine’s gas consumption.
- Safer: A CVT vehicle allows its driver to concentrate on the road while driving, without having to worry about the correct functioning of the clutch and manual gear changes.
- Faster: Car engines operate at revolutions per minute (RPMs). CVTs are equipped with more efficient speeds than automatic transmissions, allowing the driver to change gears without losing speed.
- Smooth and adaptable to different road conditions: Depending on the vehicle load, both manual and automatic transmissions will struggle up a steep hill, a CVT will find and maintain the right RPM that generates the most power.
- Doesn’t stall: Unless there is a mechanical problem, a CVT vehicle will rarely stall. You can, therefore, drive with the certainty that your vehicle will not come to an unexpected stop.
Cons of a CVT
- Feels slower: It may seem slower than a vehicle with automatic transmission. A CVT accelerates at a constant speed so that the driver does not feel the same jolt that an AT causes when shifting between low and high gears. In some cases, drivers accelerate more because they do not feel the smooth acceleration.
- More expensive: A CVT is more expensive to maintain than a vehicle with a standard gearbox. The cost of replacing individual components of a CVT is high. Unlike the AT, the CVT does not have a long service life, as it uses friction to transmit power to speed up wear on belts and parts. This characteristic makes continuous repair and maintenance essential. It is difficult to find a mechanic who has the technical know-how to carry out the repair, which increases maintenance costs.
- Different: It is very different from an automatic transmission. For most users of manual transmissions and AT vehicles, noise is usually a cause for concern, as it may indicate a mechanical problem. However, with a CVT, changes in engine speed are usually accompanied by a noise that can be compared to a failed transmission. This can lead to an experienced AT vehicle user dragging his vehicle to the workshop unnecessarily.
CVT vehicles are becoming increasingly popular not only because of the low manufacturing costs but also because the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. They are faster than other transmissions, and their fuel-saving properties make them the best vehicle choice for city dwellers.
The fact that it is still an automatic transmission makes learning to drive easier and less restrictive for the driver.
CVTs offer drivers a relatively more comfortable and smooth driving experience, and most of their disadvantages are attributed to the fact that they offer a different driving experience than vehicles with manual or automatic transmissions, making them difficult to get used to.
Hello I’m Magnus, the owner and the writer of this website. I have been working with cars since I was 16 and I’m specialized with in-depth Automotive diagnostics. Also been driving drifting for the last 6 years. I’m here to give you answers to all your automotive questions and I hope that you enjoy our content.