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A drive shaft is a mechanical component for transmitting torque and rotation, usually used to connect other components of a drive train that cannot be connected directly because of distance or the need to allow for relative movement between them.
However, 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.
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.
Moreover, these evolved from the front-engine rear-wheel drive layout. A new form of transmission called the transfer case 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 case 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.