If you've been browsing manufacture websites to find a new vehicle, you've probably noticed several models which offer continuously variable transmission (CVT). This is a system which is typically offered as one of the reasons to buy a premium model, but few manufacturers offer much information concerning what CVT is. If you're wondering if CVT is something you want, read on to learn more.
What is CVT?
Conventional transmission systems—whether automatic or manual—use a number of gears which provide a set number of gear ratios, each with a certain purpose. First gear is optimised for low speed acceleration, middle gears are usually reserved for acceleration and manoeuvring, and higher gears are designed to provide fuel efficient cruising
CVT replaces those gears with two pulleys which are connected by a metal chain or belt. One pulley is connected to the engine (input) and the other is connected to the drive wheels (output). Both can both towards and away from each other, and it is the varying of the gap which changes the transmission ratio.
When the belt moves them closer, you'll enjoy low speed acceleration; when it moves them further apart, you'll enjoy efficient cruising. This means that ratio changes are fluid, hence the name continuously variable transmission.
What are the Benefits of CVT?
The most commonly cited advantage of CVT is improved efficiency. With no set number of gears for a given engine speed, CVT can vary that speed constantly to provide both maximum power and the lowest possible amount of fuel consumption. This means that CVT can provide strong acceleration while still delivering superior efficiency.
Due to the design, you won't feel the vehicle shifting. This means that CVTs generally create a smoother ride than either manuals or automatics. This becomes particularly beneficial when you need to adapt to diverse driving conditions. For example, driving uphill is noticeably easier with CVT system.
What are the Drawbacks of CVT?
Of course, CVT is not without its disadvantages, though these are mostly down to driver acceptance rather than any fault in the system itself. Many drivers dislike the noise of their wildly revving engines, which sounds eerily similar to a slipping clutch. While a normal part of CVT functioning—this noise is caused by the adjustment of engine speed—it can nevertheless be rather disconcerting.
Additionally, CVTs are typically combined with engines which lack high horsepower and torque. This may be partly due to the fact that manufacturers like to pair them with vehicles designed for efficiency, but belt-driven systems are still struggling with the fact that they can only handle a limited amount of torque. However, the technology is improving every day, so this is unlikely to remain a problem for long.
Lastly, CVTs are more expensive than traditional transmission systems, though many drivers point to the savings created by improved economy as a way to balance that cost out over the life of the vehicle. For more expert advice on whether you should have a CVT or not, contact local transmission services.