ZF has announced it will introduce an eight-speed automatic transmission for commercial vehicles in 2020.

ZF says the new Powerline automatic transmission is designed for medium to heavy duty trucks  the equivalent of  the US Class 5 to 8 rated up to 26 tonnes.

ZF claims the new unit is lighter, quieter and offers better performance than typical six-speed transmissions currently on the market, which one presumes refers to US rival Allison, the long time king of this sector for automatic transmissions.

In a pointed hit at rival Allison, ZF showed the transmission in Allisons backyard  by demonstrating test drives in a Ram 3500 pickup at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis. carrying a 1.5 tonne water tank.

The new  truck transmission has apparently been evolved from ZFs current 8-speed 8HP automatic of which the company has produced around 15 million  in the past ten years

“We are bringing a very successful product from passenger cars to commercial vehicles,” said Christian Feldhaus, senior project manager of driveline technology at ZF .

The 8HP is currently offered in production cars from the Dodge Challenger Hellcat to the Lamborghini Urus and RAM 1500 0pickup in the US as well as a range of  other passenger, SUV and light commercial including across the Audi and BMW line ups as well.

The new Powerline transmission, codenamed 8AP, is intended for buses, RVs, heavy-duty pickup trucks and medium-duty commercial vehicles. Current vehicles in this segment, such as the  Chevy Silcverado4500-6500 HD  typically have six-speed units from companies like Allison.

ZF says the advantage of an eight-speed automatic transmission compared with the six-speed is better fuel efficiency while it says it also has advantages over automated manuals offering reduced torque interruption between shifts.

ZF claims the new Powerline weighs 149 kg., about the same as an Allison 2000 six speed transmission for light-duty commercial vehicles. However the company claims  Powerline offers the capability of the medium-duty Allison 3000 transmission and  can be fitted to engines that produce up to 1355 Nm of torque.

The Ram 3500 equipped with the Powerline transmission totalled about five tonnes including its payload according to ZF and the company says it has tested the transmission up to a gross vehicle weight of 14 tonnes.

The transmissions being demonstrated in Indianapolis were early versions of the company’s “B sample” iteration of the Powerlineand it says it will continue to produce B samples for testing before advancing to the “C sample” for production in 2020.

ZF claims its engineers used lightweight materials and advanced software in the Powerline to reduce wear, improve driver comfort and increase fuel efficiency. The Powerline is up to 10 per cent more efficient, according to ZF and it says it produces up to 30 per cent less noise and delivers up to 30 per cent better acceleration compared with a conventional six-speed automatic such as the Allison, the company claims.

ZF has incorporated fuel-saving techniques into the news automatic designed for commercial vehicles include a “sailing” feature, which automatically places the transmission into neutral during a steep downgrade as well as also stop-start technology.

The transmission will features dual PTOs, supplying up to up to 657Nm of torque  and will be available with an optional integrated oil cooler.

ZF says the 8HP transmission will be “hybrid-ready” upon production, with a future version compatible with electric drive.