Some 42 months before the new Endurant automated transmission's launch, the program engineers locked themselves in an abandoned warehouse to start completely from scratch. Well, not quite, but close — and it was about that consummate a ground-up effort.
It was a very tightly-scheduled process that took three-and-a-half years, and there's no slack in that time frame that could've been cut out to accelerate the process. And instead of automating a traditional manual transmission, this flagship transmission from Eaton Cummins Automated Transmission Technologies is free from certain constraints and has some smart, new thinking built in.
For example, rated to handle 110,000 lbs. and weighing in with fluids at 657 lbs., the Endurant is lighter than most automated manual transmissions. How do you do that?
One way is to use less lubricant. Rather than having the gears essentially sitting in a "lube bath," the Endurant targets lubrication and sprays it directly where it's needed. Matt Erdmann, manager of program management for the Eaton-Cummins joint venture, compares more typical transmission lubrication to the operation of a riverboat's paddle wheel.
"That's essentially what your gears are when they're in an oil bath," he explained. On a riverboat, "that impeller goes around, and you're losing energy with every tooth that hits that water bath."
"Well, there's a lot more effective way of getting gears lubricated if you just spray it at them," he added.
Here are some scenes and insights from a trip this week to Eaton Proving Grounds in Marshall, MI, where members of the media got a chance to test out the Endurant.