Motoring 101: CVT for the win?
Leonardo da Vinci conceptualised the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) in the closing decade of the 15th century. In 1879, you could get one for your milling factory.
Sixteen years later, it was sitting pretty in a car. For something that has been around for 140 years, it is a shock that people aren’t convinced it’s the solution.
A CVT is a transmission that essentially has one speed, and can change seamlessly through an infinite number of effective ratios using a belt/chain and a couple of pulleys. Matter of fact, I can understand why people aren’t convinced.
There are a few benefits of owning a CVT-equipped vehicle. The standout feature for most drivers is the fuel economy.
These cars are able to eke out unbelievable fuel economy figures, by continually altering the relationship between engine speed and power transmitted to the wheels.
A CVT can ensure that no more fuel is used than is needed at any point.
Another benefit is in heavy loads; standard automatics can get overwhelmed and delay in finding the right gear for the job.
A CVT has the right ratio for more scenarios. The seamless nature of the gearbox also means a smoother ride, making them ideal for most of modern day consumers.
These benefits are perfectly countered by the drawbacks. CVT gearboxes fail for sport. Compared to a standard manual gearbox, a CVT is complex and requires a lot more care.
Replacing one is nowhere near the figures of a standard manual or auto.
The coup de grâce is utter lack of soul - I’ll admit that is purely subjective, but driving without a sense of communication with a car can be unnerving and even boring.
In the end, however, the existence of the CVT is proof enough that it is wanted and needed. Innovation is human nature, and once an idea is born, it generally gets better, interpreted differently and assimilated into our culture.
It’s an exciting time to be alive, to see and drive hybrids and electric cars, to hail a taxi using a mobile phone.
We can only watch sometimes – and marvel.