Test Driving ZF Capabilities

July 14, 2014
The latest automatic transmissions and low-floor axles for transit buses offer up some smooth, quiet bus rides that provide increased fuel efficiencies and lower emissions.

ZF recently sponsored a press event at its headquarters in Aldenhoven, Germany, to highlight its latest technologies, including its automatic transmissions and low-floor axles for buses. The event showcased its contributions for all commercial vehicle markets and included some interesting things for the truck market, including its autonomously driven truck.

Head of ZF Commercial Vehicle Division Fredrik Staedtler provided a market overview, which includes a volatile market and uncertainty. He also discussed global and regional trends for commercial vehicles, including reducing emissions, politics and financing, total cost of ownership, and reliability — challenges we're all familiar with in the U.S. and Canada.

Addressing the public transportation market, Dr. Andreas Grossl, head of Product Development Axle Systems and Andreas Moser, head of Axle & Transmission Systems for Buses & Coaches Business Unit, mentioned challenges facing the industry —  increasing emission regulations and requirement for less weight. While it theoretically should be an increasing market with the trends we see driving the popularity of transit, there are only about 5,000 vehicles a year in the North American market. The strong increase they are seeing in volume and standards is in China.

A key product he talked about was the AV 133 low-floor axle, which allows for no steps inside the bus. The future is fuel efficiency and noise reduction and the second step is lowering the weight. To do that, they have recently finished testing aluminum alloy spring carriers, instead of casted iron. It can be produced now and can reduce the weight by about 5 percent of today’s weight, but is more expensive.

The AVE 130 allows for an all-electric vehicle. It has two electric motors, one for each wheel and electricity can come from any source, such as a battery or fuel cell. It’s similar to the other axles, so it is easy for an OEM to switch out as it has all the same connections to the chassis. It also has the same parts requirements so maintenance departments don’t need new and different parts. While the volume in the market isn’t there yet, they said the product, is.

For transmissions, there were four presented -- the EcoLife, AS Tronic, AS Tronic Lite and EcoShift. The  EcoLife is a 6-speed automatic transmission for city transit and coach operation, the AS Tronic automatic with manual selection possible is for coach applications, the AS Tronic Lite is for midi buses, input torque up to 1,100 Nm and EcoShift is a 6-speed manual transmission.

The EcoLife 6-gear automatic transmission transmits up to 2,100 Nm. Equipped with the the TopoDyn Life control software system, it optimizes fuel savings of more than 5 percent. The integrated primary retarder improves braking performance and reduces brake dust.  

The press event featured a lot of the latest advancements for the truck market and included in that was the ZF Innovation Truck – a joint venture of ZF and Bosch. The tractor-trailer prototype featured remote maneuvering via a tablet app. With a hybrid drive, it allowed precise, emission-free operation of a semitrailer and trailer from outside the vehicle. 

For more photos and video from the event, visit www.MassTransitmag.com/11573924