When did cars start using cvt transmissions

## The History and Evolution of Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)


A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is a type of automatic transmission that uses a variable-diameter pulley system to provide a smooth, seamless transition between gear ratios. Unlike conventional automatic transmissions with a fixed number of gears, CVTs offer an infinite number of ratios, resulting in a more efficient and responsive driving experience.

Early Development

The concept of CVT has been around for centuries, with early designs dating back to the 15th century. However, it was not until the late 19th century that practical CVT systems were developed.

In 1886, James Ward Packard patented a variable-diameter pulley system, which was the basis for the first CVT transmission in a gasoline-powered automobile. This transmission, known as the “Packard Variable Speed Gear,” was installed in a Packard Model 18 in 1903, making it the first production car to use CVT.

Hubert Van Doorne and the Daf Variomatic

In the 1950s, Dutch engineer Hubert Van Doorne made significant advancements in CVT technology. He developed the first fully automatic CVT, which he called the “Variomatic.” This transmission was first installed in the DAF 600, a small Dutch car, in 1958.

The Daf Variomatic used a rubber V-belt running between two variable-diameter pulleys. As the pulleys changed diameter, the V-belt would move along its length, effectively changing the gear ratio. This system provided a smooth and efficient driving experience, and it became a popular option on small and affordable cars.

Subaru and the Justy

In the 1980s, Japanese automaker Subaru introduced the Justy, a small hatchback that featured a CVT as an optional transmission. The CVT in the Justy was developed in collaboration with Van Doorne, and it was the first CVT to be offered in a Japanese production car.

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The Justy’s CVT proved to be reliable and fuel-efficient, and it helped to popularize CVT technology. By the end of the 1980s, CVTs were being offered as an option on several different makes and models of cars.

Modern CVTs

Over the years, CVT technology has continued to evolve and improve. Modern CVTs use advanced electronic controls and more durable materials, resulting in increased efficiency, reliability, and responsiveness.

Advantages of CVTs

CVTs offer several advantages over conventional automatic transmissions:

1. Smoothness: CVTs provide a smooth, seamless transition between gear ratios, eliminating the jerking or shifting sensation associated with traditional transmissions.
2. Efficiency: CVTs can operate at the optimal gear ratio for any given situation, resulting in improved fuel efficiency.
3. Responsiveness: CVTs can respond quickly to changes in throttle input, providing a more responsive driving experience.
4. Simplicity: CVTs have fewer moving parts than conventional transmissions, making them more reliable and easier to maintain.

Disadvantages of CVTs

CVTs also have some potential drawbacks:

1. Durability: Early CVTs were known for being less durable than conventional transmissions, but modern CVTs have improved significantly in this area.
2. Towing Capacity: CVTs may have lower towing capacities compared to conventional transmissions.
3. Cost: CVTs can be more expensive to produce and purchase than conventional transmissions.

Current and Future Trends

CVTs are becoming increasingly popular in new cars, and they are now offered as an option on a wide range of vehicles, including small cars, SUVs, and even some luxury cars. As technology continues to improve, CVTs are likely to become even more common and widely accepted.

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In addition to traditional belt-driven CVTs, new types of CVTs are being developed, such as torque-converter CVTs and dual-clutch CVTs. These new designs offer potential advantages in terms of efficiency, durability, and responsiveness.


The history of CVT transmissions is marked by innovation and continual improvement. From the early designs of Packard and Van Doorne to the advanced CVTs of today, CVTs have transformed the driving experience by providing a smooth, efficient, and responsive performance. As technology continues to evolve, CVTs are likely to play an increasingly important role in the future of automotive transmissions.

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