In 1923, E.F. Puls developed the first PULSGETRIEBE gearbox in order to make his way over the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) in his Cyklonette. In 1926, he founded the PULSGETRIEBE company in Eisenach, Germany.
In the years to come, he would develop fully automatic vehicle gearboxes which were used in cars and trucks from the manufacturers Dixi, Austin, Morris and Horch, among others. Numerous patents and articles in trade journals document the high degree of innovation that had already come to characterize PULSGETRIEBE in those days. In the 1950s, the company moved its headquarters to Karlsruhe and – following the entry of the two sons into the family business – began production of planetary gearboxes for industrial use.
PULSGETRIEBE was one of the first companies to develop a modular system for planetary gearboxes. The great success of that system moved the company to focus on planetary gearboxes from then on.
PULSGETRIEBE has remained a family-run business to this day, and today the third generation is at the helm with Dr. Christoph Puls.
Erich Friedrich Puls was born as the first son of the Hamburg businessman Friedrich Carl Puls and his wife Luzie Henriette.
After school, E.F. Puls started an apprenticeship with a businessman in Hamburg and joined his father's company, F. Puls & Co., which sold wooden toys from the Erzgebirge, in 1920. These toys were sold from Hamburg to locations all over the world, particularly in South America.
In the course of his activities as buyer of the toys, E.F. Puls had to travel to the Erzgebirge frequently. He made these trips in his Cyklonette, a three-wheeled vehicle with front-wheel drive manufactured by Cyklon Maschinenfabrik GmbH; however, the car proved to be somewhat lacking in power, and the gearing inappropriate, for the steep roads of the Erzgebirge. This motivated E.F. Puls to find an innovative solution to the problem. He designed and built a reduction gearbox with additional gearing for his Cyklonette.
E.F. Puls was thrilled with his solution and concentrated more on gearboxes. This was to be the beginning of a passion that changed his life and not only continued until his death, but indeed passed on to his sons and grandchildren.
E.F. Puls moved to Eisenach with his wife and his first son Friedrich and founded the company PULSGETRIEBE GmbH, which soon developed and tested an automatic gearbox for the Dixi 6/24 PS car. The development was exhibited at the German Motor Show in Berlin in 1926 and received significant attention in the press. It was a completely automatic 3-speed automatic gearbox where the gear stages were automatically selected and thus – like today's automatic transmissions – only the accelerator and brake still had to be operated by the driver.
With this invention, E.F. Puls went significantly further than his competitors, who offered semi-automatic transmissions in which the gear had to be selected by the driver.
Fifteen Dixi 6/24 PS cars with this gearbox were built and sold. E.F. Puls travelled to Paris and England with his car from this series. In the following years, PULSGETRIEBE GmbH developed similar automatic gearboxes for buses and trucks of the makes Vomag, Krupp, Büssing and AEC ("Blue Bus," London). In the process, PULSGETRIEBE was responsible for the development and testing of the gearboxes. Production was usually carried out at the automotive manufacturers’ locations with the participation of E.F. Puls.
Use of the automatic gearbox primarily resulted in reduced fuel consumption and lower wear; however, the prevention of incorrect gear shifts was a further objective.
The Austin company was interested in a collaboration with PULSGETRIEBE. So E. F. Puls moved to Birmingham, England in 1932 with his growing family of four. The contract was signed personally by Sir Herbert Austin. In this period, E.F. Puls developed various automatic and semi-automatic gearboxes for the following vehicles, among others:
In total, approx. 500 vehicles up to this time were fitted with PULS gearboxes, a fact which garnered some attention in the press. The third son, Jürgen, was born in England.
The family returned to Germany and settled in Leipzig, where automatic gearboxes with up to 8 gears were developed and built in the following years for various vehicles of the makes Audi, BMW, Büssing, Horch, Krupp, Opel, Vomag, Wanderer and others.
A particularly close collaboration developed with KVG Sachsen. Over the course of the partnership, various Büssing VI GL and Vomag buses were fitted with PULS gearboxes, some of which were still in service in the German Democratic Republic well after the war. For example, Vomag offered the automatic PULS gearbox for an additional charge of 1,500 Reichsmarks as an option for the standard ZF gearbox.
In addition to numerous test vehicles, a self-developed test rig was also available for testing. E.F. Puls also performed numerous test drives himself: Using an 8-cylinder Horch with positive, automatic PULS gearbox, he even mastered the up to 20% gradients of the Katschberg Pass in Austria easily – without manual gear changing!
The following is an incomplete list of some vehicles with automatic PULSGETRIEBE gearboxes:
|1925||6/24 PS Dixi|
|1928||100 PS Maybach Vomag Omnibus|
100 PS Krupp-Omnibus
|1931||90 PS Blue Bus AEC-London|
|1932||20 HP Austin|
16 HP Austin
|1933||16 HP Morris|
20 HP Morris
20 HP Morris Commercial
100 HP Morris Commercial
|1934||10 HP Morris Ten-Four|
12 HP Wolseley Twelve-Six
|1935||100 PS Büssing VI GL Omnibus|
100 PS Büssing VI GLN Omnibus
|1936||50 PS BMW|
|1937||2.7 L Wanderer W23|
|1938||2.5 L Audi-Front|
150 PS Vomag-Diesel
|1940||2.7 L Audi|
|1941||3.2 L Horch 8-cylinder|
3.5 L Horch 8-cylinder
|1942||Opel Blitz Omnibus|
Opel Blitz truck
E.F. Puls relocated his company to Hamburg and abandoned his completely bombed-out offices and workshops in Leipzig. E.F. Apart from a few documents and his knowledge, E.F. Puls could not take anything with him.
Now, shortly after the devastating Second World War, the PULSGETRIEBE company had to look for new customers who wanted to develop vehicles using his innovative drive concept. The run-down German automotive industry could not offer him any prospects immediately after the war. However, the occupying powers had heard of the developments of PULSGETRIEBE and E.F. Puls was contacted by the Russian and French sides, among others, and asked to cooperate with them. He decided to collaborate with France and moved to Rottenburg am Neckar in the French occupation zone with his family. From there, he was able to travel with his son Wolfgang via Baden-Baden to Paris, where he started a joint project with the French gear wheel factory Renondin & Losson. However, at the same time, he continued to maintain an office with workshop and test rig in Mittelstadt in the vicinity of Reutlingen.
In Paris, E.F. Puls and his son Wolfgang developed an automatic gearbox for buses of the Paris traffic companies in the framework of a license for the company Renondin & Losson. For test purposes, the gearbox was also installed in a light weight truck, which Wolfgang Puls used to carry out numerous successful test drives as far as what was then Yugoslavia.
E.F. Puls returned to Germany. His sons Wolfgang and Jürgen started mechanical engineering studies at Karlsruhe Technical University, where the oldest son Friedrich had already studied chemistry.
In 1959, the PULSGETRIEBE company rented production premises on Hansastrasse in the Karlsruhe-Rheinhafen industrial zone. Among other things, there was also a project for the German Armed Forces. Additional office space was rented in the center of Karlsruhe.
After sons Wolfgang and Jürgen Puls had completed their mechanical engineering studies, they joined the PULSGETRIEBE company and focused on the development and manufacture of planetary gearboxes for industrial use. At this time, planetary gearboxes were not widely used; however they had many technical advantages, which is why they replaced the previously usual parallel shaft gearboxes in many applications. Since the 1920s, E.F. Puls had used planetary sets in his vehicle gearboxes and this experience now benefited the PULSGETRIEBE company:
In the context of the implementation of hydraulic drives, planetary gearboxes became more and more important and the PULSGETRIEBE company was one of the first to develop a modular system for planetary gearboxes and also manufacture them itself in the newly established production facility on Hansastrasse. Demand for planetary gearboxes increased continuously and brought great success to the PULSGETRIEBE company.
Based on the modular system for planetary gearboxes, manual planetary gearboxes with holding brakes, etc., were also manufactured. The flexibility of the PULSGETRIEBE company, combined with constant innovation, is one of the major strengths of PULSGETRIEBE.
E.F. Puls died on 3/13/1963. His two sons Wolfgang and Jürgen followed in his footsteps and continued to manage the company according to his principles.
PULS planetary gearboxes were continuously further developed over the coming decades. The production facility on Hansastrasse was also expanded and adjacent premises were purchased. Innovation remained a characteristic of PULSGETRIEBE, as is demonstrated by the large number of patents registered over the following decades. Some of those developments are still technical standards today.
After having concentrated construction machinery and special vehicles based on the experience in the automotive sector in the early years, PULS gearboxes gradually conquered almost all application areas for industrial gearboxes. Among other things, they are used in drilling machines, winches, steelworks, marine drives and fairground rides. Many of these gearboxes are still in use today and maintained by PULSGETRIEBE.
A neighboring property on Hansastrasse was purchased in 1988 so that the office in the city center could be given up and the whole company united in a single location.
The product range was also continuously expanded over the course of the years and unusual custom gearboxes for special applications were also developed and manufactured.
Among other developments, many gearboxes for engine test rigs were produced in which speeds of up to 15,000 rpm could be achieved at an early stage. Numerous gearboxes for speeds of up to 22,000 rpm were built in the late 1990s for Formula 1 test rigs.
With the entry of Dr. sc. techn. ETH Christoph Puls – also a mechanical engineer – the management of the PULSGETRIEBE company passed to the third generation at the end of 2002. Wolfgang and Jürgen Puls left the company management in 2007.
In addition to investments in buildings and machinery as well as increased international activities, the PULSGETRIEBE company stayed true to its tradition and strengthened its development activities, enabling the development of new series and innovative drive concepts and generating sustained positive growth.
One of the focuses of the new developments is planetary gearboxes with particularly high power densities for demanding applications. New, challenging application areas such as renewable energies, centrifuges and textile machinery are also being opened up.
Last but not least, in spite of declining sales, the company survived the difficult economic crisis of 2009 without short-time work or redundancies thanks to numerous new developments.
Jürgen Puls finally left the company in 2010 and Dr. Christoph Puls was able to take over his shares. In the course of this transition, the company name was changed to PULSGETRIEBE GmbH & Co. KG. Thus the course could be set for the continuation of a interesting and eventful history of more than 80 years.
Innovation, quality, flexibility and the personal commitment of the Puls family will continue to be the trademarks of the PULSGETRIEBE company in the future.