TraXon Mighty Workhorse

ZF’s modular TraXon commercial vehicle transmission is finding a broad range of new applications in markets such as Brazil and China and in new vehicles such as cranes.

"Once someone has driven a heavy truck fitted with TraXon, it’s pretty obvious they never look back,” says Fredrik Staedtler, Head of ZF’s Commercial Vehicle Technology division, as he summarizes the positive feedback from experienced test drivers and truckers in many different countries. The smoothness, ease and speed of TraXon gearshifts are undoubtedly responsible for these positive reports. “But other TraXon features are also attracting a steady stream of new customers. They include class-leading efficiency – up to 99.7 percent – and a wide spread of transmission ratios, both of which make trucks more fuel-efficient; not to mention TraXon’s all-round versatility. With five different modules, we can easily tailor the basic transmission to meet almost any challenge faced by heavy commercial vehicles,” Staedtler adds. On the back of these strengths, TraXon is chalking up a string of premieres in new international markets and new vehicle segments.

Market entry in Brazil, China and Turkey

TraXon is currently produced in Friedrichshafen, but will soon be manufactured internationally.

This year, the transmission will be launched in China – at Foton, one of the country’s biggest truck manufacturers. ZF is supplying the company with the TraXon variant featuring the Intarder integrated transmission brake. A large part of the transmission’s success in the marketplace is undoubtedly due to ZF electronics. PreVision GPS enables the transmission to shift gears predictively; other functions include coasting and the “rock-free” feature for freeing vehicles stuck in snow or mud.

Roughly 4,350 miles further west in the Turkish city of Gölcük, manufacturer Ford Otosan is also committed to TraXon. All Euro 6-compliant trucks in the new Ford Cargo series are now fitted with this transmission as standard. And approximately 6,850 miles further west as the crow flies, in Brazil, preparations are in full swing for the transmission system’s production start in Latin America.

These three orders mark the transmission’s first inroads among customers outside the EU. In Europe, however, the TraXon system has become firmly established since it was first introduced four years ago. The system has celebrated the start of successful volume production at MAN, in the company’s TGX series, and at Iveco. “Our long-standing Italian customer has installed TraXon in several models, seamlessly replacing the AS Tronic, also one of ours,” Staedtler explains. “What’s more, we’ve just acquired another customer in Germany who is using the new transmission in very different, seriously heavyweight vehicle categories.”

Video: TraXon transmission worlwide

Head of the Truck & Van Driveline Technology Business Unit in the ZF Commercial Vehicle Technology Division Winfried Gründler about numerous opportunities to use TraXon

Taller, heavier, stronger

For the first time, TraXon is now being deployed in heavy-duty applications. The TraXon Torque, a version featuring a torque converter clutch module, is making its debut in the Liebherr LTM 1300-6.2 mobile crane. The imposing six-axle crane has a power output of 610 hp (455 kW), is nearly 57 feet long and 10 feet wide, and weighs in at a muscular 72 tons. Its telescopic arm towers 256 feet into the sky when fully extended. But that’s by no means the end of the story. The nine-axle Liebherr LTM 1750-9.1 crane, which is nearly 72 feet long, weighs a massive 108 tons and generates 677 hp (505 kW), will also benefit from TraXon Torque. The crane starts from standstill with zero wear and can be maneuvered smoothly, conveniently and precisely even at very low speeds. And thanks to twelve automatic gears, it can reach a top speed of 50 mph.

The ability to shift gears smoothly and start smoothly from standstill, coupled with extreme efficiency and robustness, are benefits that are clearly advantageous in other vehicle categories, too. At this very moment, the basic TraXon transmission is eagerly clocking up test miles in a ZF prototype bus. Ultimately, intercity bus passengers in particular will benefit from another of the system’s potent attributes: extremely low noise emissions. Compared to TraXon’s predecessor, AS Tronic, noise levels have been reduced by an impressive 35 percent or six decibels. “TraXon offers so many benefits. That’s true in all of the various international markets, as well as the many commercial vehicle segments in which it’s currently creating a sensation – and will continue to do so in the future,” concludes Staedtler.

Is it really possible to maneuver a 72-ton mobile crane gently and precisely into position? First-time TraXon Torque user Liebherr shows that it can be done.

"Early warning team" for smooth production launches

Customers are making increasingly stringent demands on the transmissions they buy – not just in terms of the features they expect to find in advanced transmission systems, but also in terms of production. Quite simply, they want the start of production to be faster and smoother, despite the fact that the mechanical and electronic systems in modern transmissions, not to mention the ways these systems interact, are becoming increasingly complex. This is why TraXon is now managed by a 13-strong core team headed by Kajo Aicher. The team has already earned the respect of vehicle manufacturers.

“We’re there to ensure customers get a mature product,” says Aicher. His Early Warning team is international and interdisciplinary; specialist areas covered by team members include development, mechatronics, testing, quality and reliability, as well as customer service, production and assembly. Their main priority is to act fast to ensure that TraXon volume production starts as smoothly as possible. ZF’s telematics platform, Openmatics, was first used with TraXon in field-test vehicles, delivering comprehensive information on transmission performance in real time. “First, we don’t wait for a specific number of anomalies to occur before taking action; we examine each one as soon as it appears,” explains Aicher. “Second, we solve every problem as fast as we can.” The universally positive feedback shows that this responsive strategy has legs. TraXon’s first customer, for example, described the start of transmission production as “far and away the best ever”.

Pictures: Dominik Gigler, Detlef Majer, ZF

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