This is Iconic – no, honestly it is.
Now it might look like any other gearstick type thing to you, but this is the selector for Volvo’s I-Shift and this year I-Shift is celebrating its tenth anniversary.
Hard to believe perhaps, but when I-Shift was launched in 2001 it was something that had never been seen before.
Back then, few people believed in a transmission system designed exclusively for automatic gear-changing. Today, however, I-Shift is one of Volvo Trucks’ most highly appreciated products worldwide.
Now click below for more on the I-Shift…
This year, I-Shift is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Today no fewer than 80 per cent of Volvo’s FH trucks are equipped with the system, making I-Shift virtually a standard feature.
At its launch in 2001, however, things looked very different. There were already a number of so-called AMTs (Automated Mechanical Transmissions) on the market, but they were all based on manual gearboxes adapted to permit automatic gear-changing.
They were often not entirely reliable and customers complained. Vehicle manufacturers were forced to face angry customers who had paid a great deal of money for a transmission that caused problems.
However, Volvo Trucks believed in the concept of a transmission system designed from the very outset for automatic gear-changing. The first target was to adapt it for long-distance transport.
The company succeeded and in 2002, just one year after the system’s launch, 14 per cent of all Volvo trucks sold were equipped with I-Shift. This can be compared with its predecessor, Geartronic, Volvo Trucks’ first AMT, which was only fitted to one per cent of all trucks sold by the company.
Sven-Erik Tibb was the main project manager throughout the development of I-Shift. “We created a totally new unsynchronised basic transmission and an integral control unit with all the electronics, sensors and so on. We then added software that was fully tailored for long-distance traffic. This gave us total control of the engine and gear-changing,” he recalled when speaking to Tachoblog.
The new I-Shift was thus a combination of fairly straightforward, uncomplicated mechanics along with electronic control. “There are many benefits with I-Shift. In addition to lower fuel consumption, the system contributes to safer driving, which benefits everyone,” says Ricard Fritz, Senior Vice President Strategic Planning and Business Development, Volvo Trucks.
“The driver is free to fully concentrate on the traffic and does not become tired from all the gear-changing by the end of the working day. I-Shift is also very easy to drive, and this is appreciated by both experienced drivers and those who are not so experienced,” he adds.
Other advantages of I-Shift are that it changes gears very quickly compared with other systems on the market, there is no need for a clutch pedal, and there is software optimised for different types of driving.
In 2005, when the second generation I-Shift made its appearance, the front and rear parts of the transmission had been redesigned to include a new clutch system and a new range-change unit.
This provided greater capacity for higher gross combination weights and, consequently, I-Shift could now be fitted to trucks used for some heavier construction and forestry transport duties. As a result, the transmission also found its way into trucks with the 16-litre engine and not just vehicles with 9- and 12-litre power units.
The third generation was launched in 2009 and was tailored to match Euro-5. It featured a number of hardware improvements, together with new software which made the transmission suitable for additional, even more demanding assignments. It was now possible, for example, to rock heavily laden trucks free if necessary.
“From the very start, we had developed programs for different types of operation and customers were able to choose between the various programs.
“Each new generation added new applications and now even really heavy-duty construction vehicles like the Volvo FMX can be equipped with I-Shift,” Sven-Erik Tibb (who today is section manager for drivelines and hybrids at Volvo) told Tachoblog.
Åke Zander, technical director at Volvo Powertrain, was also involved from the start. According to him, I-Shift can keep fuel consumption at the same level as the best driver on his best day with a manual transmission. The electronics make sure that the correct gear is always selected to enable the engine to work as economically as possible.
“The advantage when it comes to I-Shift is that it doesn’t have bad or good days. It provides the same fuel-efficient progress, regardless of who is driving or how the driver feels. What’s more, the driver does not need to apply any force to shift gear,” says Åke Zander.
Euro 6 will soon be making its entrance, and transmission systems will need to be adapted to the new engines. “The next generation will be even more fuel-efficient. What’s more, we are going to consolidate, refine and stabilise what we have already achieved and further expand the applications for I-Shift,” promises Åke Zander.