To make our vehicles more efficient, every component needs innovation. Monday morning, Fallbrook Technologies, a company that makes efficient but low cost mechanical transmissions for vehicles and devices, including bikes and electric vehicles, says it’s raised $25.4 million. The company, based in San Diego, turned to venture capitalists for the first time for this round — previously, it relied on private equity — and raised the money from cleantech-focused firm NGEN Partners, as well as Netherlands investment bank Robeco.
Fallbrook’s transmission is a form of a “continuously variable” transmission, which changes speeds seamlessly and doesn’t have the distinct gears associated with standard transmissions. Continuously variable transmissions have been used for decades in lower power vehicles, and the technology, when used with an engine, allows the engine to remain at peak efficiency and can reduce fuel consumption. Fallbrook’s transmission uses the movement and rotation of tiny balls to change the speed (see image below).
For the electric vehicle market, Fallbrook’s CEO Bill Klehm tells us that his company’s transmission can enable a much cheaper, more efficient operation, and can bring down the price of an electric vehicle on the order of thousands of dollars. The company is currently largely targeting the lower power “light” electric vehicle market. For bicycles, the transmissions delivers a very smooth way to change speeds without jerky gear shifting. While that might not be directly cutting carbon emissions, better electric-assist bicycles in many countries could help get people out of gas-fueled cars.