Honda is taking transmissions to a new level of madness

Honda CEO with NSX
Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo poses in front of the new Honda NSX, at its Japan launch event in Tokyo, Japan. Kyodo/via REUTERS

For nearly three decades, the transmissions of choice were the four-speed automatic and the five-speed manual.

However, over the past couple of years, the number of gears in transmissions have skyrocketed.

Now, Honda has taken the madness to a whole new level with a patent for an 11-speed multi-clutch transmission, the Automotive News Naoto Okamura reported.

In addition to 11 gears, the patent also calls for three clutches — one more than the industry standard for this type of transmission.

According to the publication, Honda filed the patent in December of 2014, but its existence was only recently made public.

A representative from Honda was not immediately available for comment.

While the four- and five-speed transmissions offered solid, reliable performance, automakers have turned to higher gear counts as a strategy to achieve greater fuel economy without sacrificing potent acceleration.

As recently as 2012, Honda’s mainstream products sold with five-speed automatics.

Currently Honda’s mainstream offerings in the US use a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) to get its power to the road. However, its Acura premium brand deploys a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission on its RLX Sport Hybrid sedan while its ILX and TLX sedans get an eight-speed DCT. The brand’s new flagship NSX supercar gets a nine-speed DCT.

Honda isn’t the only company bolting transmissions with sky high gears counts on their cars. All Fiat-Chrysler’s cars come with nine-speed ZF automatics — as do many Mercedes-Benz models. Jaguar Land Rover, BMW, and Lexus prefer an eight-speed automatic transmission. While Audi and Infiniti prefer seven-speeds.

In addition, Ford and GM are both readying 10-speed automatic transmission for release in the near future.

Venturing towards double digit gear counts is not without risk. Thus far, no manufacturer has been able to smooth out the the rough edges on any transmission with more than eight gears. In addition, more gears and more clutches also translates into greater levels of complexity. Recent history has shown that increased complexity has a direct correlation with lower levels of reliability — at least for the first few years the transmission is in production.

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