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Transmission control unit

Lucky number: 8 888 888 units produced in China

Recently, Continental has celebrated the production of the 8 888 888th electronic controller. Back in 2010, Continental celebrated the millionth transmission control unit "made in China".

Since 1998 TCUs have been produced in Changchun and additionally in Tianjin, near Beijing, since 2010 (Photo: Continental)

IN CHINA, CONTINENTAL has recorded steep production increases for transmission control units (TCU). Launched in Changchun in 1998, TCU production expanded significantly in 2008 with the opening of a plant in Tianjin, near Beijing. Only three and a half years later, the total volume has now climbed to nearly 9 million units. The exact figure is 8 888 888 units, which is a special reason to celebrate in China: 8 is traditionally a lucky number. In Cantonese “eight” sounds similar to “wealthy”.

Continental's Tianjin location has become the largest plant operated by the Transmission Business Unit (TBU), which is part of the Powertrain Division. Here the German company mainly produces the T76 systems (for stepped automatic transmission) and the DQ200 systems (for double clutch transmission). The plant delivers these parts to nearby factories of two international carmakers. The East, a platform specially tailored for local manufacturers, is, however, also produced here. The TBU also has a large development team based at the Shanghai location to support customers in China. As Rudolf Stark, Executive Vice President of the Transmission Business Unit, pointed out: "The TCUs are highly successful in China. We laid the groundwork for this growth very early on and have invested a lot over the last few years. This also includes setting up an entire supplier network. The short supply chain and the high local vertical integration enable us to react quickly and flexibly to changes in the market."

The trend to automatic transmission, as already seen in Europe and America, is clearly making inroads in China as well. This contributes to the dynamic development of the TCU business in the world's most important growth market. Chinese drivers don't often cover long distances on the freeway. Instead, they mainly drive in urban areas, where traffic is often stop-and-go, forcing them to switch back and forth between average and low speeds. Here automatic transmission makes for much easier and stress-free driving. Increasingly, car buyers opt for an automatic model when they buy a car. And this trend will increase in the future for another reason: Like many countries and regions around the world, China is also tightening its environmental laws and is likely to impose a CAFC (corporate average fuel consumption) of 5 liter per 100 kilometer as of 2020. The only way to attain this value in many cases is to make greater use of hybrid drives. These, in turn, require automatic transmission.

Since 1998 TCUs have been produced in Changchun and additionally in Tianjin, near Beijing, since 2010 (Photo: Continental)

Not only international automakers, but Chinese automakers too increasingly work on developing transmissions of their own. Continental developed the East platform, which went into serial production in 2009, expressly for these local manufacturers. The second generation of this TCU is now produced in Tianjin. It is designed as a modular system with 32-bit architecture and is suitable for controlling all types of automatic transmissions, whether stepped automatic transmission, double clutch transmission, or continuously variable transmission (CVT).

"We tailored the East platform to the needs of our Chinese customers. We rigorously held to the platform principle, so the TCU provides an optimum combination of current control technology and high cost-efficiency," said Jerome Pierrelee, Head of Engineering Asia Segment, Transmission Business Unit. "From the very beginning, we have supported the development work of our local customers – including state-owned and private automakers and independent transmission manufacturers. This created a strong basis of trust. Today they fully rely on us, an all-round provider, knowing that we supply "turnkey" solutions with hardware and software from one source."

Continental benefits from the extensive software capability of its transmission development team in Shanghai, which can support international and Chinese manufacturers across the whole spectrum, from basic software to application software. In order to provide customers with on-site support for automatic transmission development, Continental has regularly hosted the "Transmission Academy" since 2012. Held in cooperation with Tongji University in Shanghai, the two-day seminar includes both lectures and practical exercises. University lecturers and industry experts share their knowledge to arrive at the most comprehensive understanding of the latest techniques.

Prompted by the steep rise in demand for TCUs in China, the automotive supplier will be setting up an additional production line in Tianjin. "This line, which is specially designed for the East platform, will be used mainly for Chinese manufacturers," said Rudolf Stark. And the next generation of transmission control is already in preparation. "We will refine the East platform further. It will work with dual core micro-controllers, have application software entirely developed by Continental, and meet the highest safety regulations in accordance with ISO 26262 standard. Slated to go into series production in 2018, the new generation will also make it possible to actuate an additional electrical oil pump, for example," stated Stark.

"In the case of vehicles with manual transmission, the electronically controlled clutch, or e-clutch for short, is key to further optimizing CO2 emissions. It offers new options that make it easier to implement electrification or stop-start features in manual transmissions. Here we are already developing solutions with various customers, especially those in Asia," explained Stark.

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