A transmission takes the energy from the engine or a motor and converts it into usable speed of rotation. On a vehicle, the engine produces the rotational energy and it goes through a transmission to allow you to be able to control the speed of the vehicle.
See, without a transmission the engine would stall at low RPMs, it needs to rotate at least about 1000 RPM to stay working. So when you just start moving, the motor would have to be at very low RPMs to continue to have power to move forward. This is why a transmission is used to deliver the rotation speeds that are necessary but allow the engine to rotate at the speed it needs to work efficiently at.
A Ford F-150 Lightning does not have a transmission because it is powered with an electric motor that can spin as fast as it needs to to propel the car. It can go from 0 RPM (Rotations Per Minute) all the way to 20,000 RPM without a problem. It can also rotate in reverse. This is why electric vehicles don’t need a transmission.
The transmission exists to convert the speed of rotation of the engine into a usable rotation speed for the wheels, so when there is no need for this a transmission is not necessary. The electric motors can still rotate too fast for the wheels so a few speed adjustment gears are used to get the speed to the perfect rotation.
Why Ford F-150 Lightning Doesn’t Need A Transmission?
Let’s do some math to calculate the RPMs of the tires to illustrate how slow, or fast the engine would rotate and it it is healthy for it, without a transmission.
The Ford F-150 Lightning’s most common tire is 275/60/R20, which has a circumference of 103.6 inches, or 8.6 feet. There are 5280 feet in a mile, so if we take a mile and divide it by the circumference we will get tire rotations per mile. It rotates 614 times per mile. If we multiply that by 70 miles we will get 42,980 rotations. Now let’s divide that by 60 minutes to get the RPM, comes out to 716 rotations per minute. And to make it even funner, that comes out to almost 12 times per second.
So as we saw in our calculation, going at 70 miles per hour only requires 716 rotations per minute which our electric engine can do easy peasy. The problem is that this rotation is too slow and because of this, the electric motor contains sprockets inside that balances out the rotation of the motor to rotation speed that is needed. There is no need to change it from there as it can go up and down between those rotations speeds as needed, so an electric powered vehicle does not need a transmission.
Electric trucks are still young and things can change as technology changes as well as the company is able to switch gears and think outside the box and provide environment for innovation. In the future there may be a need for a transmission in electric trucks, for efficiency maybe and better power control. I can see that after Ford is done perfecting the existing drivetrain, they might be looking into allowing the motors to run at lower RPMs to save on power usage while speeding on a highway, or changing gears to increase horsepower for towing or off-road purposes.
More About The Ford F-150 Lightning Motors
When you want to go, and you press the “gas” pedal, the Ford F-150 Lightning goes. It doesn’t hesitate, it pushes you into the seat like you’ve never experienced before and it launches. The feel of power behind your back propelling you forward is unlike anything else you would normally feel unless you are in one of these powerful electric vehicles. The only other time I felt something similar was when I flew in an airplane for the first time in 30 years and the plane was taking off, the G’s happening at the time of take off, I think the feeling is about like that, except stronger than that.
This truck has dual electric fixed-magnet AC motors, with one positioned between the wheels in the front and another between the wheels in the back. They are directly connected to the wheels via an axle on each side of the motor. The less components between the power source and the road the more power can be transferred into forward motion, and this truck has very little standing in its way.
Different Types Of Transmissions Ford Trucks Use
Ford trucks have used several transmissions over the years and the most recent ons is a 10-speed heavy-duty TorqShift® automatic transmission that replaced the older 6R80 6-speed automatic transmission in the Ford F-150 trucks in 2017.
The F-250, F-350 and the F-450 trucks have a 5R110 TorqShift® 5-speed automatic transmission that replaced the 4R100 automatic transmission in 2003.
All these transmissions allow the gas engine to run at its most efficient RPM speed while delivering the usable rotation to the tires, providing optimal torque and horsepower where it needs it.
How Transmissions Work
A transmission is a very sophisticated mechanical contraption. It takes in the rotation speed on one end, converts it into other rotation speed and outputs it on the other end. When the rotation source is turning too fast or too slow for the end use necessary, a transmission will use gears to convert it to usable speed.
Some transmissions have multiple speeds, allowing to switch them on the fly. A common transmission can have 5 speeds, where it will start in a lower gear and as the end speed increases, the gears will change from 1 through 5 and deliver faster and faster rotation on the output side while allowing the source to continue to rotate at the same speed.
The automotive engines like to operate within 1,500 to 2,500 RPM, this is where everything is designed to perform optimally, so keeping the engine within these rotation speeds is ideal while moving a vehicle forward. A transmission allows the engine to operate efficiently while providing the speed to drive through a drive way at 5 miles per hour as well as speed on a highway at 70 miles per hour, while the engine continues to rotate within the ideal RPMs.
Valik loves tinkering in the garage and is currently restoring a 2000 GMC Sierra 1500 truck. He also writes about the progress on this blog. When not in the garage, Valik is also a web developer and a blogger. I know, strange, a hand in two completely different worlds. And that is the way he likes to keep it.