Home Technology How A CVT Works – The Continuously Variable Transmission

How A CVT Works – The Continuously Variable Transmission

A continuously variable transmission (CVT), also known as a shiftless transmission, single-speed transmission, stepless transmission, pulley transmission, or, in case of motorcycles, a ‘twist-and-go’, is an automatic transmission that can change seamlessly through a continuous range of effective gear ratios.

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This contrasts with other mechanical transmissions that offer a fixed number of gear ratios. The flexibility of a CVT with suitable control may allow the input shaft to maintain a constant angular velocity even as the output speed varies.

A belt-driven design offers approximately 88% efficiency, which, while lower than that of a manual transmission, can be offset by lower production cost and by enabling the engine to run at its most efficient speed for a range of output speeds.


When power is more important than economy, the ratio of the CVT can be changed to allow the engine to turn at the RPM at which it produces greatest power. This is typically higher than the RPM that achieves peak efficiency. In low-mass low-torque applications (such as motor scooters) a belt-driven CVT also offers ease of use and mechanical simplicity.