ZF unveils new PowerLine automatic transmission for commercial trucks

by Sonia Straface

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – ZF introduced its new PowerLine automatic transmission for medium-duty trucks, heavy-duty pickups, and buses at the infamous Lucas Oil Raceway outside of Indianapolis on June 13.

The new 8-speed transmission was built with commercial vehicles up to 57,000 lbs in mind, and features up to 1,000 lb-ft of engine torque. According to ZF executives, the new transmission provides significant fuel savings of up to 10% when compared to available automatic transmissions on the market today.

ZF said it plans to roll out the transmission globally in 2020, just ahead of the Environment Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Phase 2 Greenhouse Gas and Fuel Efficiencies Standards.

According to Christian Feldhaus, the senior project manager of truck driveline technology for ZF, the new transmission was adapted from the 8HP passenger car transmission.

“We are bringing a very successful product from passenger cars to commercial vehicles,” he said during the presentation to trucking journalists.

He added that the transmission is a proven product as more than 15 million of ZF’s passenger car transmissions have been produced since 2007.

“The target was to make this product the most efficient possible,” Feldhaus said. “(So when it comes to market) it helps all customers to comply with the GHG requirements.”

The ZF patented 8-speed gear set and intelligent skip-shift is said to improve acceleration performance by up to 30%. ZF also said the new PowerLine provides a 45% weight benefit and reduces noise emissions by up to 30%.

“From a total cost of ownership perspective, we tried to reduce the noise emissions for drivers because of fatigue,” Feldhaus said, adding that noise and vibration is something that deeply affects drivers without them even noticing.

The new PowerLine CV transmission also comes loaded with smart software features such as Adaptive Starting Gear, Neutral Idle Control, Multi Skip Shift, Maneuvering Mode, StopStart and more.

The new transmission will also feature extended service intervals and a lifetime fluid filter that won’t need to be replaced in the transmission’s lifetime.

“Not having to change the filter is significant when you look at total cost of ownership,” Feldhaus added.

Trucking press were invited to test the new transmission that was placed in a Dodge Ram 3500 truck, weighted down with more than 3,000 lbs. of water in the bed.

What I noticed most while driving the truck along the closed course was the skip-shift technology. The truck accelerated with ease without a hiccup.

“The benefit of the automatic transmission over an automated manual transmission is comfort,” Feldhaus said. “With an AMT, you have to shift gears and you can feel it but with the AT and skip-shift technology, you won’t feel the shifts.”

I definitely noticed the comfort on my ride. With my (lead) foot on the accelerator, I could hardly tell I was hauling any weight at all in the truck.

What Feldhaus said is the best part of the PowerLine is how it is a one-size-fits-all product.

“And this enables us to cover most medium-duty applications with just this one product,” he said. “It suits every customer demand and helps simplify (the customer’s) operations. Whether it’s refuse or a pickup and delivery truck….this product is for us, a new commercial vehicle experience.”

The manufacturer also allowed trucking media to demo its ReAX electric-assisted hydraulic steering — which reduces a driver’s workload by requiring 70% less effort to turn in a static state — and lane keeping assistance technologies on the racetrack.

ZF added that it is currently developing a hybrid electric version of the PowerLine as well.

“PowerLine is hybrid ready,” he said adding that ZF is prepared to offer the transmission in a hybrid option after the initial rollout.

“The ultimate goal of ZF is to reduce the total costs of ownership through more value for money with higher torque rating capabilities and the lowest operating costs, such as fuel savings, extended fluid change intervals, lifetime fluid filter, and more,” said Mitja Schulz – the senior vice-president and head of Commercial Vehicle Technology North America, ZF. “Thanks to its automotive genes, the PowerLine brings excellent shift qualities, no matter if truck, bus or HD pickup – comfortable, fast, and without any interruption in acceleration.”


Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.


  • what degree of control is offered to the driver , during icy conditions,
    slow going, uphill and downhill? == below 30 mph.