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MILITARY TECHNOLOGY (MILTECH) is the world's leading international tri-service defence monthly magazine in the English language. MILITARY TECHNOLOGY is "Required Reading for Defence Professionals". Follow us on Twitter: MILTECH1

13 June 2016

Eurosatory 2016: A New Generation: ZF's New EcoLife Offroad Automatic Transmission for Medium to Heavy-Duty Armoured Wheeled Vehicles

Reliable military wheeled vehicles require robust, individually adapted transmission technology. The new 7-speed ZF-EcoLife Offroad automatic transmission has been further developed and optimised for off-road applications in medium to heavy-duty special vehicles.

Powerful, compact, and economical: The ZF-EcoLife Offroad with seven gears sets new standards for automatic transmissions in medium and heavy military vehicles. (Photo: ZF)

It is the performance-enhanced successor generation of the ZF-Ecomat family that has been successfully used in this segment for several decades worldwide.

ZF has developed a transmission system in the shape of the EcoLife Offroad, which is designed for current and future requirements placed on off-road, multi-axle or all-wheel-drive special vehicles, as well as heavy, armoured wheeled vehicles. Tailored exactly to the particular vehicle, it relieves the driver from having to operate the clutch and gear lever – thus preventing any incorrect operation. EcoLife Offroad measurably improves acceleration, shifts gear depending on topography and handles up to 2,600Nm of input torque which are transmitted without tractive force interruption during gear changes. With this transmission system, one is perfectly equipped for the new high-performance engine generation.

The high spread of ratios of 9.1 facilitates high speeds, while significantly improving the respective vehicle's climbing ability and considerably reducing fuel consumption at the same time. In conjunction with the new torque converter, which features an integrated torsional damper, this guarantees smooth starting, good acceleration figures and pronounced smoothness even at low engine speeds – on extreme off-road inclines as well as on the road.

The dry weight of the EcoLife Offroad basic transmission – despite all the application-relevant reinforcements – is just 450 kilogrammes. When it comes to installation space, its very compact length of approx. 900mm is a positive feature. The helical toothed planetary gearsets help the automatic transmission operate remarkably quietly - another advantage for military applications.

The ZF retarder, which is integrated directly into the transmission, proves its worth particularly on long downhill gradients. This hydrodynamic, wear-free continuous service brake effectively slows down the vehicle thanks to a maximum 1,900Nm of braking torque and relieves the strain on the service brakes, thus reducing wear by up to 90 percent. The entire retarder effect is also retained during gearshifts. EcoLife Offroad is also prepared for potential auxiliary power units: Two power take-offs will be available with a maximum 1,000Nm of torque.

EcoLife Offroad comes with a dual cooling system. This system comprises an integrated transmission heat exchanger and a separate retarder heat exchanger. This makes the ZF automatic transmission future-proof: It has been designed from the ground up for the kinds of higher temperatures which new engines need in order to fulfil stringent emission standards such as Euro 6, EEV or EPA 10. Not least, this enables heavy trucks, off-road machinery as well as armoured wheeled vehicles to become more economical and environmentally friendlier.

An electronic control unit forms the brains of the ZF-EcoLife Offroad. To minimise necessary wiring, this control unit is directly mounted onto the transmission. Programmed specifically to each particular vehicle, it communicates via a standardized CAN bus interface (CAN SAE J1939) with other vehicle components.

ZF is a global leader in driveline and chassis technology as well as active and passive safety technology. The company, which acquired TRW Automotive on 15 May 2015 and integrated it into the organisational structure as the Active & Passive Safety Technology Division, is represented at about 230 locations in some 40 countries.