Research Project Information

Research Project Summary Information

Lightweight Driveline Housings(ST10579-1)

Magna Powertrain USA, Inc.


The extra weight of a four-wheel-drive (4WD) system, relative to a two-wheel-drive system, reduces fuel economy and performance. To address this problem designers have looked to lightweight materials. For example, the housing that supports and encloses the gears and other components of a transfer case is usually made of aluminum or magnesium instead of iron. Using plastics might save even more weight, but designers have held back due to concerns about the lower strength of plastics, especially at elevated temperatures. A proposed alternative is to use a metal skeleton, molded inside an otherwise plastic housing. The metal would provide significant strength and stiffness while the plastic would play a lesser role in handling structural loads, but would perform other necessary functions such as containing lubricants and preventing contaminants from entering the transfer case.

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Project Description

The work entailed characterizing existing transfer case housings to define a baseline for technical comparisons; developing design and simulation algorithms and computer simulation models to speed and standardize the housing design process; identifying and characterizing vehicles and duty cycles to which the housings would be applied; developing product specifications and preliminary housing designs; investigating fabrication methods and materials that could produce the desired product at low cost and in high quantities; updating the computer simulation models to incorporate the data developed in prior tasks; and, defining a development path leading to a detailed design of a mass-produced version of the subject product.


Future production and deployment of the subject product could provide benefits in terms of increased fuel economy, reduced emissions of greenhouse gases and smog-forming compounds, and retention of manufacturing jobs.

Project Results

Significant technical hurdles were encountered, and before they could be resolved a severe downturn in the market for 4WD products caused further development work to be put on indefinite hold.


Magna Powertrain USA, Inc.
6600 New Venture Gear Dr
East Syracuse, NY 13057

Principle Investigator

Tim Burns

Universities Involved


Project Type:

Product Development

Technologies Types:

Light Duty

NYSERDA Contact Information

Joseph Wagner


R&D -Transport & Power Systems

Contract Details

Start Date: 1/11/2010
Project Status: Active
Contract Number: ST10579-1

Last Updated: 4/1/2013 1