You are on page 1of 5


CVT (Continuous Variable


In theory, Continuous Variable Transmission is an ideal design - it varies the transmission
ratio continuously so that you can say it is an automatic transmission with infinite no. of
ratios. As a result, at any time the most suitable ratio can be chosen so that performance
and energy efficiency are both optimized.
The theory of CVT is very simple. ou might simply understand it from the picture beside.
The core of CVT consists of a driving belt running
between two pulleys, one connect to the engine output
and one to the drive shaft. !ach pulley comprises of "
pieces of disc, with slope surface. #hen the discs are
positioned far away from each other, the belt runs in an
orbit with relatively small diameter, that e$uals to a small
gear of conventional gearbo%. #hen the discs are pushed
towards together, the belt is pushed outside and runs in
an orbit of large diameter, that e$uals to a big gear. As a
result, the transmission ratio can be varied by pushing or
easing the discs.
#hen one pulley is varied, the other pulley must adapt
itself inversely since the length of the belt is fi%ed. This
multiply the change of transmission ratio, too.
The theory is ideal, but implementation is difficult. As the
belt is the highly stressed member, it must be very strong and grip very well on the
pulleys. &ost CVTs, including 'onda Civic(s, use a metallic belt developed by
)etherlands( Van *oorne Transmissie +V. This belt consists of hundreds of transverse
metal plates and longitude metal tapes. The transverse ones are used to grip the pulley,
the longitude ones hold the transverse plates and deal with strain.
In the ,-s, CVT failed to be popular because belts were not strong enough to handle the
tor$ue from larger engines. Therefore it was bounded to .ord .iesta, .iat /no 0- 1electa
and 1ubaru 2usty, all of them had less than 3,4--c.c. As the belt improved gradually,
'onda introduced it into the 30-- c.c. Civic, then )issan even applied it to the ",--- c.c.
class 5
'opefully in the ne%t few years, CVT will invade 4,--- c.c. class. In then, I(m afraid many
automatic ma6ers will lose a big slice of mar6et share.
CVT with manual override (eg. Nissan M6 Hyper-
)issan, accompany with its partner 1ubaru, is widely
regarded as the leader in CVT technology, especially
after it launched &0 'yper-CVT in the 2apanese
&0 'yper-CVT could be described as 8the Tiptronic in
the CVT world8. Apart from fully auto mode li6e all
CVTs, it provides a manual mode which simulates a 0-
speed manual gearbo%. 9f course, in theory it can
simulate more ratios, but no driver will as6 for more
than they can cope with.
!ven if you ignore this tric6, it was still the most
advanced CVT of its time. &ated with 7rimera(s "-litre
dohc VVT engine, &0 'yper-CVT handles 3:- hp and
3;- lbft, a record of its time. It also delivers decent
smoothness and response, than6s to the use of tor$ue converter <li6e automatic
transmission= instead of conventional electromagnetic clutch.

Advantage> &uch cheaper, lighter and smaller than automatic.
*isadvantage> In reality, no faster or more frugal than automatic. 8?ubber band effect8
ratio varying feels strange. )ot really involving. Cannot cope with tor$uey
#ho use it @ )issan Teana, 7rimera, &arch, Cube <&0 'yper-CVT=, .iat 7unto
<1peed Aear=, 1ubaru 7leo <I-CVT=, ?over &A. <1teptronic=, 'onda
.it.... many.

?ubber band effect> when the accelerator pedal was pressed, conventional CVT
immediately brings the rpm up to a high level. The engine put out its ma%imum
performance with the corresponding level of noise but the car slowly catches up in
acceleration. This gives one the feeling of a slipping clutch.

udi Multitroni! CVT
Theoretically, Continuous Variable Transmission should offer optimised fuel economy as
well as acceleration. 'owever, I have never seen such CVT ever appeared. All previous
CVTs, no matter from )issan, 1ubaru, 'onda, .iat or .ord, barely offers a smooth
transmission. They might be cheap alternatives to automatic, but unable to match manual
gearbo%. )ow Audi is claiming a real improvement based on the A0>

--0- mph .uel consumption
A0 with ;-speed manual ,." sec :.: litre B 3--6m
A0 with ;-speed Tiptronic :.C sec 3-.0 litre B 3--6m
A0 with &ultitronic CVT ,.3 sec :.D litre B 3--6m

The &ultitronic differs from conventional CVT by two things >
3= it uses chain instead of belt as the media to transmit tor$ue and vary gear ratio.
"= it has a tor$ue sensor.
&ost previous CVTs use a steel V-section belt invented by *utch CVT specialist Van
*oorne. 'ow much tor$ue the CVT withstand depends on the design of belt, which at its
best <)issan 7rimera= is 3;- lbft. Instead, Audi developed a chain to replace the belt. The
steel chain consists of 3-"; lin6 plates and D; pairs of pins. It is almost as fle%ible as the
V-section belt but much stronger. Therefore it can handle up to ""3 lbft of tor$ue.
Another brea6through is the use of tor$ue sensor. It ensures the pulleys clamp the chain
with sufficient contact pressure but not e%cessive. Conventional CVTs always apply
e%cessive pressure in order to cover all the possible conditions of use. !%cessive
pressure result in worsen fuel efficiency and wear. .uel economy is further enhanced by
the e%tra-wide gear ratio range - 0.-; > 3, compare with ; > 3 of conventional manual
The program is also cleverer. .irstly, it monitors engine speed to eliminate the 8rubber
band effect8 which e%ists in previous CVTs. It ensures the engine rev increases with
increasing driving speed. 1econdly, from the pedal action, it recognizes whether the
driver would prefer to drive in a more performance-oriented or consumption-oriented
manner, hence choosing the right ratio. Eastly, it provides 0 se$uential 8manual8 ratios for
those who li6e more involvement. It enables engine bra6ing as desired. Ei6e Tiptronic 1,
there is an optional steering wheel control for upshift and downshift.
&ost modern CVTs use electro-hydraulic clutch or tor$ue converter, but Audi uses a
multi-plate clutch, which is more complicated but enables smooth yet responsive

Advantage> Cheaper and lighter than automaticF as $uic6 and fuel efficient as manual
*isadvantage> To be seen in road test. Tor$ue capacity is still limited. )ot for high
performance cars.
#ho use it @ Audi &ultironic

Nissan "#troid CVT
If AudiGs &ultitronic is an evolution of
the conventional CVT, )issanGs
!%troid is obviously a revolution.
Instead of using a belt or chain as
the media for varying transmission
ratio, it uses two pairs of rollers. As
shown in the picture, the rollers lin6
between the input disc <which
connects the cran6shaft= and output
disc <which connects the driveshaft=.
+y varying the angle of rollers,
different transmission ratio can be obtained. .or e%ample, for 8low8 gearing ratio, the
rollers meet the input disc near its inside diameter, but meet the output disc near its
peripheryF thus the output disc turns much slower than the input disc. The overall ratio
range is C.C>3.
Compare with belt or chain, the solid rollers can withstand much higher tor$ue. &oreover,
since the input and output disc are located at the same a%is, it is able to be pac6aged in a
longitudinal gearbo% and drive the rear wheels. In fact, it is already driving the Cedric B
Aloria in 2apan, handling the massive ",0 lbft of tor$ue from the turbocharged VH0.
The rollers are actuated by electro-hydraulic. 'owever, the rollers are not directly contact
with the input B output disc. A specially developed viscous oil provides the traction
between them while reduce friction and wearing.
Ei6e other modern CVTs, it also provides 0 artificial se$uential ratios for more driver

Advantage> #ithstand high tor$ueF smooth and refined.
*isadvantage> CostlyF no $uic6er than automaticF limited range of ratio.
#ho use it @ )issan Cedric B Aloria, 16yline 4;-AT-,