American Axle and Manufacturing (AAM) has introduced the automotive industry’s first disconnecting all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. “EcoTrac” is a feature on the new 2014 Jeep Cherokee.
AAM’s EcoTrac Disconnecting All Wheel Drive is a new approach to minimizing the effect of inertia and drag on a vehicle’s driveline system by disconnecting many of the rotating components from the driveline when they are not needed. AAM’s EcoTrac disconnects at the power transfer unit (PTU) and the rear drive module (RDM) allowing large portions of the driveline to discontinue rotating while in front-wheel drive. These components include both the PTU and RDM hypoid gear sets, the bearings associated with the gear sets, and the driveshaft.
AAM says the new technology has all the benefits of an all-wheel-drive system without the sacrifice to fuel economy and emissions.
“Traditionally, when adding all-wheel-drive capability to a vehicle, it results in an automatic one to three mile per gallon fuel economy penalty,” said Philip R. Guys, AAM vice president product engineering. “We set out to find a solution to offset this, and that is exactly what our EcoTrac Disconnecting AWD does.”
AAM’s EcoTrac Disconnecting AWD can be engaged with driver input or when Automated Transition Events (ATEs) occur. These ATEs are 100 percent customizable and include both environmental and dynamic events such as lower temperatures, rain detection and changes in slope among others. Upon receiving the signal from the AAM electronic control unit to engage AWD mode, EcoTracTM engages all-wheel drive seamlessly without noticeable shifting to the driver.
“AAM is proud to partner with Chrysler Group LLC in providing this industry-leading technology,” said David C. Dauch, chairman, president and CEO of AAM. “Our new EcoTracTM Disconnecting AWD reaffirms our commitment to technology leadership and we are excited that it has supported Chrysler Group’s development of the unique 4×4 systems debuting on the all-new 2014 Jeep Cherokee.”
AAM’s EcoTracTM technology consists of many industry firsts, including AAM’s patented RDM with a side mounted Torque Transfer Device (TTD). Thus far, a total of five U.S. patents have been assigned to AAM for EcoTracTM. There are nine U.S. patents pending relative to the technology.
Responding to the requirements of Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, consumer needs and global concerns, AAM’s EcoTracTM Disconnecting AWD offers the traction and control desired by drivers in all conditions, while improving fuel economy and safety and reducing emissions.
EcoTracTM is being manufactured at AAM’s Three Rivers Manufacturing Facility in Three Rivers, Michigan. In support of this new program, AAM has invested more than $100 million in the facility and has hired more than 550 new associates in 2013.