Many carmakers are adding more gears to transmission for improve fuel economy, and swapping in dual-clutch units for conventional torque-converter automatics. Honda may be about to top all of those efforts, though, as it recently applied to patent an 11-speed transmission with three clutches.
The application was filed with the Japan Patent Office on May 27, according to AutoGuide, which first spotted it. In the application, Honda said the third clutch will reduce torque loss experienced with dual-clutch transmission. The application, which was translated from Japanese, also stated that the new transmission will allow “speed change to be more effectively restricted and a speed change response to be increased.”
It’s likely that Honda intends to use the third clutch to reduce shift times, as well as the interruption in power that comes during shifts in all geared transmissions. The double-digit number of gears would increase fuel economy by allowing Honda to install higher gear ratios for low-load highway cruising. That benefit is why many manufacturers have gradually increased the number of gears in transmissions over the past few years.
Eight-speed automatics are not uncommon today, and certain models like the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque and Chrysler 200 even offer nine-speed units. Ford and General Motors are preparing to launch a 10-speed automatic that they co-developed. Ford will use it in different versions of the F-150 pickup truck, while GM’s first deployment of the transmission will be in the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 muscle car.
Honda could be the first carmaker to offer an 11-speed transmission, although Ford applied for a patent for its own 11-speed design last year. The Honda application gives no indication of what kind of car would use this transmission, or what engines it would be paired with.