ZF Investing Big in Truck Transmissions

One of the consequences of the pandemic is the increase in the number of commercial vehicles on the roads—as in, for example, all of those FedEx, UPS and Amazon Prime trucks crowding in suburban neighborhoods like a street in New York City pre-pandemic.

Who knew there was such a demand for home deliveries?

So to meet the demands for medium-duty commercial trucks (as well as buses and heavy-duty pickups), ZF has announced that it is investing $200-million in its plant in Gray Court, South Carolina, to produce its ZF PowerLine 8-speed automatic transmission.

This is a new transmission, as it went into production at the ZF HQ production facility in Friedrichshafen, Germany, at the end of 2020; the factory in South Carolina is scheduled to start exclusively supplying the North American market in 2023.

ZF PowerLine 8-speed transmission for truck applications. (Image: ZF)

A couple points about the transmission:

  • Although it is an 8-speed, Christian Feldhaus, Director Commercial Vehicle Driveline Technology North America, ZF, says, “ZF PowerLine proves equal, but in most cases, higher performance and efficiency than other transmissions with 9 and 10 speeds.” Or more gears are not necessarily better.
  • In addition to which, although there is increased attention to electric commercial vehicles—such as those Amazon will be getting from Rivian and General Motors’ new BrightDrop—one might wonder about a transmission ostensibly for ICE applications. Feldhaus: “With its modular design, PowerLine is prepared for mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants, making it a true technology bridge to future mobility.”

Arguably, post-pandemic there may be a falling off of home-delivery demands. But odds are people who have found it to be a convenient way to get things may stay with it.

So there’s going to be a need for a lot of transmissions.–gsv