Maruti Celerio: How MUL's Auto Gear Shift technology works

Written by Vikram Chaudhary | Updated: Jan 25 2014, 21:07pm hrs
MarutiAt the Auto Expo next month, Maruti-Suzuki will launch yet another small car called the Celerio
At the Auto Expo next month, Maruti-Suzuki will launch yet another small car called the Celerio, which is based on the A-Wind Concept that was first shown to the world at the 2013 Thailand Motor Show. Among other features, what the Celerio will introduce to the Indian market is a technology called two-pedal (without the clutch pedal) Auto Gear Shift, which the company has christened as EZ Drive, pronounced as easy drive.

Now, the EZ Drive is essentially the automated manual transmission technologywhich is derived from Formula 1. It combines comfort of use and a reduction in fuel consumption. Its production costs are also lower compared to traditional automatic transmissions.

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In fact, according to the Italian automotive parts manufacturer Magneti Marelli, automated manual transmission comprises of an electronic control unit and a hydraulic system (robotic arm) that supervise the use of the clutch and gear shifting, allowing the driver to change gear without using the clutch, either sequentially or fully automatically. It operates on the manual transmission of a car in the same way as the driver would: it opens and closes the clutch, engages and disengages the gears and, when required, it controls the choice of transmission. These three control movements are ensured by three specific hydraulic actuators, controlled by hydraulic electro-valves. Magneti Marelli also adds that all the components in the hydraulic unit are gathered together in a single kit. It is delivered to the car manufacturer sealed and ready to be installed in the gearbox. Once assembled in the gearbox, the hydraulic kit mechanically interfaces with the gear drive shaft.

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How the EZ Drive works

The gear-lever unit, placed between the two front seats, looks exactly like a traditional automatic transmission unit. Towards the right there are three slotsN for neutral, D for drive and R for reverse. Towards the left there is one slot marked M, for manual. In the manual mode, there are options of + to upshift gears and - to downshift gears.

Before firing the engine, you have to ensure the gear lever is in the N mode and the brake pedal is pressed. If it is not in the N mode and the brake pedal is not pressed, the car will not start. This is to ensure safety. Once the engine fires, put the gear lever in the D mode and release the brake. The car will then start moving, but at a very slow speedthis is called the Creep function, which is very effective in urban stop-and-go traffic. Gradually step on the accelerator pedal and the car will then pick up speed. Here, the EZ Drive system kicks in and, based on the operation of the accelerator pedal and vehicle speed, the car moves up to a higher gear, the highest being fifth in Celerios case. The R mode works in the exact similar way, its just that the car will move backwards, and in a single gear.

Maruti claims that optimum vehicle performance and fuel economy can be obtained by lightly pressing and releasing the accelerator pedal, because aggressive pressing of the pedal will result in gear shifting at higher engine speeds (high RPM) which, though will give you intense acceleration, adversely impacts the fuel economy.

Similar to the traditional automatic transmission unit, the EZ Drive offers the M modeput the gear lever into M position and then shift gears by pushing the lever to either the + or - modes; you can do so without taking your foot off the accelerator pedal. Again, as is the case with traditional automatics, you can shuffle between automatic and manual even while driving.

Pressing the brake reduces the speed of the car and the gears shift down automatically, until the car comes to a complete stop. Then, you has to shift the lever to the N mode, switch off the engine, and engage the parking brake. But unlike most traditional automatics, the EZ Drive does not have a P slotwhich indicates parkingthus engaging the parking brake is important.

As we found out during our brief drive in Jodhpur, the Celerio is easy to manoeuvre and, because it is powered by the tried-and-tested 1-litre K-Series engine, it remains fun to drive. Maruti says the Celerio offers a class-leading fuel efficiency of 23.1 kmpl and the production cost of its Auto Gear Shift technology is considerably lower than those of traditional automatics. In fact, Magneti Marelli claims that in some of the best applications of the automated manual transmission on mass-production automobiles, a 5% reduction in fuel consumption was recorded compared to the automatic transmission version of the same automobiles, as well as a reduction in emissions equal to 5 gm/km of CO2.