At some point in your life, you’ve probably driven a car that doesn’t have one. It might be an older car or maybe even something new; however, it could also be a car with a manual transmission.
If you’re lucky enough to own such a vehicle, then you know what I mean. When the shift lever is pushed into first gear and you put your foot down on the accelerator pedal, you feel a slight but distinct sensation as your right hand begins to slip off the clutch pedal. This is because there is no longer any friction between the two.
The Delta 8 Cart system from Mercedes-Benz aims to eliminate this problem by replacing the conventional clutch with a drive unit that engages and disengages the engine in much the same way as a manual transmission would.
For those who may not know, a manual transmission works like this:
- Shift lever is placed in Drive position to select gears
- Pedal is depressed for acceleration
- Shift lever returns to neutral position to change gears
- A clutch mechanism connects the engine to the transmission when the pedal is released.
- In contrast, a semi-automatic transmission utilizes the following sequence of steps:
- Shift lever is placed in Reverse position to select gears
- Pedal is depressed for acceleration
- Shift lever returns to Drive position to change gears
- Pedal is depressed again for brake application
- Shift lever returns to Neutral position to release brakes
However, unlike a standard automatic transmission, where the driver must manually engage and disengage the clutches, Delta 8 uses electric motors controlled by the car’s computer to do all the work.
This means that the driver can sit back and relax while the car changes gears automatically.
Why Delta 8?
This is not the first time that Mercedes-Benz has attempted to implement such a system. Many years ago, they produced the R170 AMG model which utilized a similar technology to Delta 8, only it was known at the time as Automatic Transmission Control (ATC). However, the project never went beyond the prototype stage.
So why are they attempting to bring it back now? Well, it seems that they think that many people are beginning to question whether or not they should bother investing in cars that don’t have conventional automatic transmissions anymore.
The reason for this is simple: Auto manufacturers are finding it increasingly difficult to justify spending millions upon millions of dollars developing automatic transmissions that are more complex than what people want. After all, it’s easier to sell a car with a manual transmission if you offer the option and people actually want it.
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As such, auto companies are starting to look for alternative solutions to the problems they face in producing automatic transmissions. And it seems that they believe that a solution like Delta 8 may just be it.
What exactly will Delta 8 provide? Let’s take a closer look…
Features of Delta 8
Delta 8 features a number of different components. The most significant are the power steering pump/brake booster and the clutch control mechanism. Both components require a dedicated electrical supply, meaning that the car cannot use the existing 12V DC systems that are commonly used to operate other electronic devices.
It goes without saying that these additional components add weight to the vehicle. With the average weight of a modern car being around 2,500kg, this isn’t going to be a light addition to the car’s body.
But weight alone isn’t the whole story here. There are some serious drawbacks that come along with adding these extra components, too.
Firstly, there’s the cost of production. These components are expensive and require specialist engineering skills to build them correctly, so they aren’t cheap. Additionally, they aren’t easily replaceable and therefore require regular maintenance to ensure that they continue working perfectly.
And finally, there’s reliability. If one component fails, then the entire system will fail. That’s a big risk to take especially since these components are very expensive to produce.
On top of all of this, the fact that they require their own separate electrical supply means that the engine won’t be able to draw its usual amount of current during normal operation. As such, the engine will have to run at a lower RPM than it normally would, reducing efficiency and increasing fuel consumption.
So, despite all of these issues, will the Mercedes-Benz engineers manage to pull this project together? Find out below…
How does it work?
To keep things brief, let me explain how the Delta 8 system works using the example of selecting a second gear. Normally, you’d place the shifter into second gear, push the accelerator all the way down, and turn the wheel until you get the desired speed. Then, as the wheels begin to spin faster, you release the accelerator pedal.
With a conventional automatic transmission, the engine draws power through the clutch, spinning the wheels and driving the car forward, while simultaneously engaging the next gear. However, with a Delta 8 system, the engine will still be running and drawing power from the battery before the clutch engages and the transmission starts working.
The electric motor will then apply pressure to the input shaft of the transmission, causing the transmission to engage the new gear and send a signal to the engine to shut off and start up again. Once the engine is running, the clutch will disengage and stop pulling power from the car.
When the driver releases the accelerator pedal, the torque sensor detects that the car has stopped accelerating and sends a signal to the electric motor. The motor applies pressure to the input shaft, causing the transmission to reengage and send a signal to the engine to restart.
Once the engine has started, the clutch will engage again and power will flow once more.
Does it work?
You bet it does! In fact, Mercedes-Benz claims that it works better than a conventional automatic transmission and offers “a significantly shorter reaction time, increased responsiveness, and improved handling”.