AFTER CHARTING THE EVOLUTION OF AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSIONS, BOB BEECH VISITS SPECIALIST CIVIL ENGINEERING COMPANY A E YATES TO FIND OUT HOW VOLVO’S LATEST I-SHIFT GEARBOX PERFORMS IN THE REAL WORLD.
PHOTOGRAPHY: CRAIG ECCLESTON
After a shaky start in the 80’s and 90’s, when vehicle electronic control systems were still in their infancy, automated transmissions have virtually taken over from manual gearboxes. The first versions, like the Mercedes Benz EPS and Scania’s CAG system were really an attempt to minimise the physical effort required by changing the gear ratio via air servos, the driver still operated the clutch and moved a small lever to instruct the transmission when to change.
ZF took things a step further with early generation AS Tronic transmissions fitted to Iveco trucks, the clutch pedal was taken away, but the driver still had control of when to change. Eaton offered its semi-automatic system based on the Twin Splitter design, which gave some of the UK manufacturers an opportunity to enter this new era, but there were still limitations. Volvo was also working towards a fully automated system with its Geartronic two pedal transmission, it required electronic engine management and was first fitted to production FL10 tractor units with EDC TD103/ 318BHP engines and to a handful of F12’s with TD123 EDC engines. Initially offered as an extra cost option for a short while, the manufacturer dropped the price premium and many operators gave it a try.