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A continuously variable transmission (CVT) can be advantageously used to drive a robot in its most efficient operation region for a wide range of external loads. The paper describes an optimal load-sensitive control algorithm for an actuator unit comprising a CVT and an electric motor. The introduced control algorithm takes into account both the electrical motor and the CVT efficiency. The validity of the proposed method is demonstrated by simulations and experiments carried out on an actual stair-climbing mobile robot "HELIOS-VI"