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Smarter clutch control coming?

by David Zatz on

Three FCA US engineers — Ryan Masters, Brace Bade, and Craig Ashmore — have been granted a patent on a “smart clutch,” or as they put it, “slip and energy based clutch protection.” This could be helpful for saving the transmissions of, say, 707 horsepower cars and trucks.

The trio point out that clutch protection systems can calculate the amount of slip, based on the rotation of the flywheel and that of the output shaft. A processor can figure out the energy going into the clutch, as well, by looking at existing data.

The proposed system would monitor the rate of clutch engagement (by looking at the change in slip), and reduce engine torque as needed to prevent damage. It could look at how long the clutch had been partly released (length of time in slip), as well as torque and rate of clutch application.

This could also be used for automated manual transmissions hooked up to gasoline, electric, or hybrid power systems, though it’s most likely meant for pure manual transmissions. As the patent states, “The friction between the clutch and flywheel during clutch slip generates heat, which could potentially damage the clutch. In particular, a large amount of heat could be generated during a heavy launch…”

The engineers wrote that a gear position or clutch position sensor could be used in lower gears, but those increase cost more than using existing sensors and having computers figure it all out.

The patent was just granted on May 9, 2017, but the application was made on March 30, 2015, so it might already be used in Dodge cars or Ram trucks.  Courtesy Steven St. Laurent.

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