Major upgrade to EcoLife as ZF unveils next-gen gearbox model

ZF EcoLife 2 automatic gearbox

ZF has announced that the next generation of its fully automatic gearbox, the EcoLife 2, will later extend to input torques of up to 2,800Nm in coach applications.

Currently the EcoLife in road applications is limited to a maximum input torque of 2,300Nm. The 500Nm increase theoretically allows the EcoLife 2 to capture all engines currently used in coaches sold in the UK, including those in the over-500bhp bracket.

EcoLife 2 will be launched first for urban and interurban applications with a maximum input torque of 2,000Nm. It will be made available to ZF’s existing manufacturer customers by 2020. After that it will be rolled out to the open market.

The coach variant, which will extend from 1,700Nm upwards, is “currently under development” and will follow later.

The new gearbox includes modifications to both hardware and software to give faster and smoother shifting, ZF says. That includes changes to the torque converter and the torsional damper, which will better suit low engine speeds. It retains six forward gears and an integrated retarder.

All model variants will have stop-start functionality. Additionally, the new gearbox is lighter, more efficient, more robust and easier to maintain than the outgoing model.

Internal friction losses are also reduced, and cooling has been improved with a new heat exchanger layout. All model variants will have engine stop-start functionality.

In what is thought to be a first for a fully automatic gearbox in the coach and bus segment, the EcoLife 2 is equipped with a coasting facility. That will allow further fuel savings, says ZF.

Previously coasting in a torque converter-equipped gearbox has not been possible, although it is with ZF’s automated manual Traxon transmission.