More stories related to SAEDETROIT – In the complex landscape of fuel economy-enhancing technologies under development for near-term advances, transmissions – until recently considered a comparatively “mature” technology – are beginning to see more development effort.

So says Mark Chernoby, Chrysler Group vice president-advance engineering.

Speaking with the media at this week’s Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress here, Chernoby says Chrysler, like most auto makers, is examining “a multitude of (transmission) technologies,” in the quest for improved fuel economy, performance and refinement.

He says there remains considerable inefficiency in today’s conventional torque-converter automatic transmission.

Chrysler is examining a wide range of transmission technologies, including continuously variable transmissions, multi-speed automatics and dual-clutch automated manual transmissions, such as the VW Group’s Direct Shift Gearbox. (See related story: Dual-Clutch Gearboxes Taking Off)

Ram hybrid in production, but Chrysler eying more conventional components in quest for enhanced efficiency.

Chernoby says the desire to improve transmission efficiency is a prime reason why the auto maker late last year entered into an agreement with General Motors Corp. to jointly develop the Advanced Hybrid System 2 hybrid-electric drivetrain.

The AHS2 system employs a unique design that incorporates two electronically controlled and actuated planetary gearsets in the transmission. Small but powerful electric motors control gear-ratio changes. (See related story: GM Details New Hybrid Transmission)

The AHS2 design “allows us to do some unique things with (transmission) gear ratios and operating efficiencies,” Chernoby says.

Because the system differs fundamentally from the way most production hybrid-electric vehicles have employed electric drive, he says the system should enhance highway fuel economy markedly – a driving environment where “conventional” HEVs cannot derive as much benefit from the hybrid design.

Chrysler also continues to explore technologies to improve the operation of today’s conventional gasoline engines.

Chernoby says with the current escalation of crude-oil prices, that improvements for gasoline engines, such as the company’s successful Multi-Displacement System cylinder-deactivation technology, may be the most cost-effective solutions for near-term fuel economy gains.

Chernoby says it likely will be a relatively long time before the conventional internal combustion engine is displaced by new technology, so it is pragmatic to continue with IC-engine development. “If we’re really serious about saving the environment, we’ve got to focus some energy there.”

bvisnic@primediabusiness.com