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An automobile may use a longitudinal shaft to deliver power from an engine/transmission to the other end of the vehicle before it goes to the wheels. A pair of short drive shafts is commonly used to send power from a central differential, transmission, or transaxle to the wheels.
A truck double propeller shaft
Main article: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout
In front-engined, rear-drive vehicles, a longer drive shaft is also required to send power the length of the vehicle. Two forms dominate: The torque tube with a single universal joint and the more common Hotchkiss drive with two or more joints. This system became known as Systme Panhard after the automobile company Panhard et Levassor patented it.
Most of these vehicles have a clutch and gearbox (or transmission) mounted directly on the engine with a drive shaft leading to a final drive in the rear axle. When the vehicle is stationary, the drive shaft does not rotate. A few, mostly sports, cars seeking improved weight balance between front and rear, and most commonly Alfa Romeos or Porsche 924s, have instead used a rear-mounted transaxle. This places the clutch and transmission at the rear of the car and the drive shaft between them and the engine. In this case the drive shaft rotates continuously as long as the engine does, even when the car is stationary and out of gear.
Early automobiles often used chain drive or belt drive mechanisms rather than a drive shaft. Some used electrical generators and motors to transmit power to the wheels.
In British English, the term “drive shaft” is restricted to a transverse shaft that transmits power to the wheels, especially the front wheels. A drive shaft connecting the gearbox to a rear differential is called a propeller shaft, or prop-shaft. A prop-shaft assembly consists of a propeller shaft, a slip joint and one or more universal joints. Where the engine and axles are separated from each other, as on four-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive vehicles, it is the propeller shaft that serves to transmit the drive force generated by the engine to the axles.
A drive shaft connecting a rear differential to a rear wheel may be called a half shaft. The name derives from the fact that two such shafts are required to form one rear axle.
Several different types of drive shaft are used in the automotive industry:
The slip-in-tube drive shaft is a new type that also helps in crash energy management. It can be compressed in the event of a crash, so is also known as a collapsible drive shaft.
Four wheel and all-wheel drive
These evolved from the front-engine rear-wheel drive layout. A new form of transmission called the “transfer box” was placed between transmission and final drives in both axles. This split the drive to the two axles and may also have included reduction gears, a dog clutch or differential. At least two drive shafts were used, one from the transfer box to each axle. In some larger vehicles, the transfer box was centrally mounted and was itself driven by a short drive shaft. In vehicles the size of a Land Rover, the drive shaft to the front axle is noticeably shorter and more steeply articulated than the rear shaft, making it a more difficult engineering problem to build a reliable drive shaft, and which may involve a more sophisticated form of universal joint.
Modern light cars with all-wheel drive (notably Audi or the Fiat Panda) may use a system that more closely resembles a front-wheel drive layout. The transmission and final drive for the front axle are combined into one housing alongside the engine, and a single driveshaft runs the length of the car to the rear axle. This is a favoured design where the torque is biased to the front wheels to give car-like handling, or where the maker wishes to produce both four-wheel drive and front-wheel drive cars with many shared components.
Drive shaft for Research and Development (R&D)
The automotive industry also uses drive shafts at testing plants. At an engine test stand a drive shaft is used to transfer a certain speed / torque from the combustion engine to a dynamometer. A “shaft guard” is used at a shaft connection to protect against contact with the drive shaft and for detection of a shaft failure. At a transmission test stand a drive shaft connects the prime mover with the transmission.
A 1913 FN (Fabrique Nationale), Belgium, 4cylinders and shaft drive
A 1923 BMW R32, with a shaft-drive, boxer twin engine
Drive shafts have been used on motorcycles almost as long as there have been motorcycles. As an alternative to chain and belt drives, drive shafts offer relatively maintenance-free operation and long life. A disadvantage of shaft drive on a motorcycle is that gearing is needed to turn the power 90 from the shaft to the rear wheel, losing some power in the process. On the other hand, it is easier to protect the shaft linkages and drive gears from dust, sand and mud.
The best known motorcycle manufacturer to use shaft drive for a long time since 1923 is BMW. Among contemporary manufacturers, Moto Guzzi is also well-known for its shaft drive motorcycles. The British company, Triumph and all four Japanese brands, Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Yamaha, have produced shaft drive motorcycles.
Motorcycle engines positioned such that the crankshaft is longitudinal and parallel to the frame are often used for shaft driven motorcycles. This requires only one 90 turn in power transmission, rather than two. Moto Guzzi, BMW, Triumph, and Honda use this engine layout.
Motorcycles with shaft drive are subject to shaft effect where the chassis climbs when power is applied. This is counteracted with systems such as BMW’s Paralever, Moto Guzzi’s CARC and Kawasaki’s Tetralever.
On a power-driven ship, the drive shaft, or propeller shaft, usually connects the transmission inside the vessel directly to the propeller, passing through a stuffing box or other seal at the point it exits the hull. There is also a thrust block, a bearing to resist the axial force of the propeller. As the rotating propeller pushes the vessel forward, any length of drive shaft between propeller and thrust block is subject to compression, and when going astern to tension. Except for the very smallest of boats, this force isn’t taken on the gearbox or engine directly.
Cardan shafts are also often used in marine applications between the transmission and either a propeller gearbox or waterjet.
Cardan shafts are used in some diesel locomotives (mainly diesel-hydraulics, such as British Rail Class 52) and some electric locomotives (e.g. British Rail Class 91). They are also widely used in diesel multiple units.
Drive shafts in Bicycles
The drive shaft has served as an alternative to a chain-drive in bicycles for the past century, although never becoming very popular. A shaft-driven bicycle is described as an “Acatane”, from one of their early makers. When used on a bicycle, a drive shaft has several advantages and disadvantages:
Drive system is less likely to become jammed or broken, a common problem with chain-driven bicycles
The use of a gear system creates a smoother and more consistent pedaling motion
The rider cannot become dirtied from chain grease or injured by the chain from “Chain bite”, which occurs when clothing or even a body part catches between the chain and a sprocket
Lower maintenance than a chain system when the drive shaft is enclosed in a tube, the common convention
More consistent performance. Dynamic Bicycles claims that a drive shaft bicycle consistently delivers 94% efficiency, whereas a chain-driven bike can deliver anywhere from 75-97% efficiency based on condition.
Greater clearance: with the absence of a derailleur or other low-hanging machinery, the bicycle has nearly twice the ground clearance
For bicycle rental companies, a drive-shaft bicycle is less prone to be stolen, since the shaft is non-standard, and both noticeable and non-maintainable. This type of bicycle is in use in several major cities of Europe, where there have been large municipal funded, public (and automatic) bicycle rental projects.
A drive shaft system weighs more than a chain system, usually 1-2 pounds heavier
At optimum upkeep, a chain delivers greater efficiency
Many of the advantages claimed by drive shaft’s proponents can be achieved on a chain-driven bicycle, such as covering the chain and gears with a metal or plastic cover
Use of lightweight derailleur gears with a high number of ratios is impossible, although hub gears can be used
Wheel removal can be complicated in some designs (as it is for some chain-driven bicycles with hub gears).
Categories: Vehicle parts | Automotive technologies | Mechanical power control | Mechanical power transmissionHidden categories: Articles lacking sources from December 2007 | All articles lacking sources
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