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Automatic vs Manual Transmission

This argument has come up again and again in regards to Fuel Efficiency. In America there are a lrage number of Automatic Transmissions, so many in fact that when you try to rent a car in Ireland they will just assume you have no idea how to drive a standard (manual transmission); the Irish government uses this as an excuse not to exchange American Driver licenses for an Irish license; and the Insurance industry over here uses it as an excuse to charge individuals twice the normal rate if they drive an automatic car. (They say it has something to do with not paying attention to driving???)

Don't get me wrong, I prefer Manual Transmissions. Hell I ride a Motorcycle! But the fact remains that if I had a job (or lifestyle) which required be to be in city traffic ALL day long, I would definitely by an automatic!

But every time I bring up the question as to why there are so few automatics in Ireland I am given the same answer - "Fuel Efficiency"! All of my friends, even good friends in the Auto Industry (You know who you are) refuse to believe me when I say that "Modern" Automatic Transmissions are nearly as good, if not the same) as Manual Transmissions with regards to Fuel Economy.

I accept that "back in the day" when Automatics first came out, they were much less fuel efficient. However there have been a number of technologies that closed the gap:

  • Torque converter lock-up clutch: Basically an automatic clutch. The biggest reason for the difference between auto and manual in the past was that the automatic used a hydraulic clutch which lost a good deal of the energy supplied when compared to the manual clutch which is mechanical mechanism which has zero power loss.
  • Today's Automatic Transmissions sort through as many as eight gears! More gears means much more fuel efficiency.
  • Semi-Automatic Transmissiions: paddle-shift
  • Continuously Variable Transmissions. These transmissions vary the power they delivery by dynamically changing the size of the diameter of the pulleys on which belts are attached.

Bob Brandt

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Page last modified on July 31, 2009, at 09:54 AM