Continuously variable transmission
A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is a transmission that can change steplessly through an infinite number of effective gear ratios between maximum and minimum values. This contrasts with other mechanical transmissions that offer a fixed number of gear ratios. The flexibility of a CVT allows the driving shaft to maintain a constant angular velocity over a range of output velocities. This can provide better fuel economy than other transmissions by enabling the engine to run at its most efficient revolutions per minute (RPM) for a range of vehicle speeds. Alternatively it can be used to maximize the performance of a vehicle by allowing the engine to turn at the RPM at which it produces peak power.
Many small tractors for home and garden use have simple rubber belt CVTs. For example, the John Deere Gator line of small utility vehicles use a belt with a conical pulley system. They can deliver an abundance of power and can reach speeds of 10–15 mph (16–24 km/h), all without need for a clutch or shifting gears. Nearly all snowmobiles, old and new, and motorscooters use CVTs, typically the rubber belt/variable pulley variety.
Some combine harvesters have CVTs. The CVT allows the forward speed of the combine to be adjusted independently of the engine speed. This allows the operator to slow or accelerate as needed to accommodate variations in thickness of the crop.
CVTs have been used in aircraft electrical power generating systems since the 1950s and in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Formula 500 race cars since the early 1970s. CVTs were banned from Formula 1 in 1994 due to concerns that the best-funded teams would dominate if they managed to create a viable F1 CVT transmission. More recently, CVT systems have been developed for go-karts and have proven to increase performance and engine life expectancy. The Tomcar range of off-road vehicles also utilizes the CVT system.
Variable-diameter pulley (VDP) or Reeves drive
In this most common CVT system,there are two V-belt pulleys that are split perpendicular to their axes of rotation, with a V-belt running between them. The gear ratio is changed by moving the two sheaves of one pulley closer together and the two sheaves of the other pulley farther apart. Due to the V-shaped cross section of the belt, this causes the belt to ride higher on one pulley and lower on the other. Doing this changes the effective diameters of the pulleys, which in turn changes the overall gear ratio. The distance between the pulleys does not change, and neither does the length of the belt, so changing the gear ratio means both pulleys must be adjusted (one bigger, the other smaller) simultaneously in order to maintain the proper amount of tension on the belt.
The V-belt needs to be very stiff in the pulley's axial direction in order to make only short radial movements while sliding in and out of the pulleys. This can be achieved by a chain and not by homogeneous rubber. To dive out of the pulleys one side of the belt must push. This again can be done only with a chain.
Toroidal or roller-based CVT (Extroid CVT )
Toroidal CVTs are made up of discs and rollers that transmit power between the discs. The discs can be pictured as two almost conical parts, point to point, with the sides dished such that the two parts could fill the central hole of a torus. One disc is the input, and the other is the output. Between the discs are rollers which vary the ratio and which transfer power from one side to the other. When the roller's axis is perpendicular to the axis of the near-conical parts, it contacts the near-conical parts at same-diameter locations and thus gives a 1:1 gear ratio. The roller can be moved along the axis of the near-conical parts, changing angle as needed to maintain contact. This will cause the roller to contact the near-conical parts at varying and distinct diameters, giving a gear ratio of something other than 1:1. Systems may be partial or full toroidal. Full toroidal systems are the most efficient design while partial toroidals may still require a torque converter, and hence lose efficiency.
Magnetic CVT or mCVT
A magnetic continuous variable transmission system was developed at the University of Sheffield in 2006 and later commercialized.mCVT is a variable magnetic transmission which gives an electrically controllable gear ratio. It can act as a power split device and can match a fixed input speed from a prime-mover to a variable load by importing/exporting electrical power through a variator path. The mCVT is of particular interest as a highly efficient power-split device for blended parallel hybrid vehicles, but also has potential applications in renewable energy, marine propulsion and industrial drive sectors.
Infinitely Variable Transmission (IVT)
A specific type of CVT is the infinitely variable transmission (IVT), in which the range of ratios of output shaft speed to input shaft speed includes a zero ratio that can be continuously approached from a defined "higher" ratio. A zero output speed (low gear) with a finite input speed implies an infinite input-to-output speed ratio, which can be continuously approached from a given finite input value with an IVT. Low gears are a reference to low ratios of output speed to input speed. This low ratio is taken to the extreme with IVTs, resulting in a "neutral", or non-driving "low" gear limit, in which the output speed is zero. Unlike neutral in a normal automotive transmission, IVT output rotation may be prevented because the backdriving (reverse IVT operation) ratio may be infinite, resulting in impossibly high backdriving torque; ratcheting IVT output may freely rotate forward, though.
The IVT dates back to before the 1930s; the original design converts rotary motion to oscillating motion and back to rotary motion using roller clutches. The stroke of the intermediate oscillations is adjustable, varying the output speed of the shaft. This original design is still manufactured today, and an example and animation of this IVT can be found here. Paul B. Pires created a more compact (radially symmetric) variation that employs a ratchet mechanism instead of roller clutches, so it doesn't have to rely on friction to drive the output.
Most IVTs result from the combination of a CVT with a planetary gear system (which is also known as an epicyclic gear system) which enforces an IVT output shaft rotation speed which is equal to the difference between two other speeds within the IVT. This IVT configuration uses its CVT as a continuously variable regulator (CVR) of the rotation speed of any one of the three rotators of the planetary gear system (PGS). If two of the PGS rotator speeds are the input and output of the CVR, there is a setting of the CVR that results in the IVT output speed of zero. The maximum output/input ratio can be chosen from infinite practical possibilities through selection of additional input or output gear, pulley or sprocket sizes without affecting the zero output or the continuity of the whole system. The IVT is always engaged, even during its zero output adjustment.
The ratcheting CVT is a transmission that relies on static friction and is based on a set of elements that successively become engaged and then disengaged between the driving system and the driven system, often using oscillating or indexing motion in conjunction with one-way clutches or ratchets that rectify and sum only "forward" motion. The transmission ratio is adjusted by changing linkage geometry within the oscillating elements, so that the summed maximum linkage speed is adjusted, even when the average linkage speed remains constant. Power is transferred from input to output only when the clutch or ratchet is engaged, and therefore when it is locked into a static friction mode where the driving & driven rotating surfaces momentarily rotate together without slippage.
These CVTs can transfer substantial torque, because their static friction actually increases relative to torque throughput, so slippage is impossible in properly designed systems. Efficiency is generally high, because most of the dynamic friction is caused by very slight transitional clutch speed changes. The drawback to ratcheting CVTs is vibration caused by the successive transition in speed required to accelerate the element, which must supplant the previously operating and decelerating, power transmitting element.
Hydrostatic transmissions use a variable displacement pump and a hydraulic motor. All power is transmitted by hydraulic fluid. These types can generally transmit more torque, but can be sensitive to contamination. Some designs are also very expensive. However, they have the advantage that the hydraulic motor can be mounted directly to the wheel hub, allowing a more flexible suspension system and eliminating efficiency losses from friction in the drive shaft and differential components. This type of transmission is relatively easy to use because all forward and reverse speeds can be accessed using a single lever.
An integrated hydrostatic transaxle (IHT) uses a single housing for both hydraulic elements and gear-reducing elements. This type of transmission has been effectively applied to a variety of inexpensive and expensive versions of ridden lawn mowers and garden tractors.
Naudic Incremental CVT (iCVT)
High frictional losses
The variator pulley of an iCVT is choked using two small choking pulleys. Here one choking pulley is positioned on the tense side of the chain of the iCVT. Hence there is a considerable load on that choking pulley, the magnitude of which is proportional to the tension in its chain. Each choking pulley is pulled up by two chain segments, one chain segment to the left and one to the right of the choking pulley; here if the two chain segments are parallel to each other, then the load on the choking pulley is twice the tension in the chain. But since the two chain segments are most likely not parallel to each other during operations of an iCVT, it is estimated that the load on a choking pulley is between 1 to 1.8 times of the tension of its chain.
Also, a choking pulley is very small so that its moment arm is very small. A larger moment arm reduces the force needed to rotate a pulley. For example, using a long wrench, which has a large moment arm, to open a nut requires less force than using a short wrench, which has a small moment arm. Assuming that the diameter of a choking pulley is twice the diameter of its shaft, which is a generous estimate, then the frictional resistance force at the outer diameter of a choking pulley is half the frictional resistance force at the shaft of a choking pulley.
Shock and durability
The transmission ratio of an iCVT has to be changed one increment within less than one full rotation of its variator pulley. Has to be changed one increment means that the transmission diameter of the variator pulley has to be changed from a diameter that has a circumferential length that is equal to an integer number of teeth to another diameter that has a circumferential length that is equal to an integer number of teeth; such as changing the transmission diameter of the variator pulley from a diameter that has a circumferential length of 7 teeth to a diameter that has a circumferential length of 8 teeth for example. This is because if the transmission diameter of the variator pulley does not have a circumferential length that is equal to an integer number of teeth, such as a circumferential length of 7½ teeth for example, improper engagement between the teeth of the variator pulley and its chain will occur. For example, imagine having a bicycle pulley with 7½ teeth; here improper engagement between the bicycle pulley and its chain will occur when the tooth behind the ½ tooth space is about to engage with its chain, since it is positioned a distance of ½ tooth too late relative to its chain.
Torque transfer ability and reliability
The teeth of the variator pulley of an iCVT are formed by pins that extend from one pulley half to the other pulley half and slide in the grooves of the pulley halves of the variator pulley. Here torque from the chain is transferred to the pins and then from the pins to the pulley halves. Since the pins are round and the grooves are curved, line contact between the pins and the grooves are used to transfer force from the pins to the grooves. The amount of force that can be transmitted between two parts depend on the contact area of the two parts. Since the contact areas between the pins and their grooves are very small, the amount of force that can be transmitted between them, and hence also the torque capacity of an iCVT, is limited.
A cone CVT varies the effective gear ratio using one or more conical rollers. The simplest type of cone CVT, the single-cone version, uses a wheel that moves along the slope of the cone, creating the variation between the narrow and wide diameters of the cone.
In a CVT with oscillating cones, the torque is transmitted via friction from a variable number of cones (according to the torque to be transmitted) to a central, barrel-shaped hub. The side surface of the hub is convex with a specific radius of curvature which is smaller than the concavity radius of the cones. In this way, there will be only one (theoretical) contact point between each cone and the hub at any time.
Radial roller CVT
The working principle of this CVT is similar to that of conventional oil compression engines, but, instead of compressing oil, common steel rollers are compressed.
The motion transmission between rollers and rotors is assisted by an adapted traction fluid, which ensures the proper friction between the surfaces and slows down wearing thereof. Unlike other systems, the radial rollers do not show a tangential speed variation (delta) along the contact lines on the rotors. From this, a greater mechanical efficiency and working life are claimed.