03 Jun Sustainability: Fallbrook Technologies

Introduction to Fallbrook

First developed by Leonardo Da Vinci, the new design NuVinci by Fallbrook is a more affordable and reliable design.
First developed by Leonardo Da Vinci, the new design NuVinci by Fallbrook is a more affordable and reliable design. Credit: Fallbrook Technologies
If you think research into transmission gears is yesterday's news, think again. Fallbrook Technologies, a startup company in Austin, Texas, has developed the NuVinci, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) technology that compared to conventional transmission, provides improved performance and flexibility. This tech can be applied in anything that requires transmission gears which includes bicycles, automotive accessory drives, electric vehicles, lawn care equipment to small wind turbines and beyond. The originator of this brilliant little design is a man named Donald C. Miller (Don) who was a cycling enthusiast. He wanted to build the fastest bicycle. Despite not having formal engineering training, his self-motivation drove him to not give up until he came across CVT. Though this idea was originally developed by Leonardo da Vinci in 1490, various problems such as cost, scalability, efficiency and weight have kept CVTs from widespread adoption and limited their practical applications. Don decided to change that. In 1998, Don and several angel investors formed Motion Systems, Inc. (MSI) to develop this tech. By 2000, he finished filing the first patent and at the end of the year, with new collaborators Miller and the Weiss Group LLC, formed a new company called Motion Technologies LLC. A second financing round in 2003 allowed validation and further development. Robert A. Smithson, a transmission expert, was incredibly impressed that he joined the company as a consultant and later as VP of Product Development before becoming the company's CTO. Thanks to Smithson, a subset of CVT -- the infinitely variable transmission (IVT) -- was discovered. An application in wind energy further excited the team. On April 13, 2004, Fallbrook Technologies was formed and additional funding and expertise came in. Notably, auto industry veteran Bill Klehm became CEO while Don Miller was shifted to VP of Advanced Research. Two years later, in September 2006, Fallbrook introduced the first commercial continuously variable planetary (CVP) transmission and full production of bicycles in Europe and US began in January 2007.
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