Ford Wants The Electric F-150 To Do Tank Turns

A photo of the Ford F-150 Lightning electric truck driving on a trail.

Why drive your electric truck when you can spin your electric truck?
Photo: Ford

The Ford F-150, the best selling vehicle in America, will be joined by its electrically-powered version this week. The F-150 Lightning will soon reach dealerships chock-full of power, range and a flatbed that appeals to the inner American in all of us. But, Ford is already eyeing new tricks for the electric truck as it filed a patent that would give the F-150 zero-radius turning.

Titled “Methods And Apparatus To Perform A Tank Turn,” the patent would allow Ford’s electric trucks to turn on the spot in a similar way to a tank. Where the military tanks turn by spinning their left and right tracks in opposite directions, the patented Ford method works a little differently.

According to the patent, Ford would enable its electric trucks to spin on the spot by driving the wheels on diagonally opposite corners of the car in opposite directions. At the same time, the other two diagonally opposite wheels would be locked by the brakes.

This technique could allow the electric trucks to spin on the spot and turn incredibly tight corners. But, the real world implementation of this tech might actually be to do with improving torque-vectoring in the EV or creating better off-road traction. Just because Ford patented the tight turning technique, it doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to roll out to customers.

A diagram from the Ford patent for Tank Turning.

Tank Turn never looked so simple to understand.
Illustration: Ford

After hearing all about Ford’s plans for tank turning, you might be thinking it all sounds a little familiar. Well, thats because Ford is actually the third electric truck maker to target tank turns on its vehicles.

Rivian was the first company to patent and showcase its slick skills. It was closely followed by Toyota, which patented a similar trick.

But the Rivian tank turns are different to Ford’s. That’s because Rivian has one motor for each wheel while Ford only has a motor on each of the front and rear axles. So for Rivian’s tank turns, it is able to spin the wheels on the left and right side of the trunk in differing directions to bring about the spin.

Then, Toyota’s tact for tank turning is different again. On its trucks, Toyota would steer all four wheels in various directions to allow tank turns and sideways driving.

Are you still following? Good.

A diagram showing the workings of a Ford F-150 Lightning truck.

The F-150 has a motor on the front and rear axels.
Illustration: Ford

Being able to spin on the spot is, of course, a pretty neat trick. So there’s no wonder the three companies are out to protect their plans to potentially implement the system on trucks and cars of the future.

But, while Rivian might have been the first EV maker to pursue tank turns, it has since turned its back on the system.

The company backtracked on plans to roll out its tank turning capabilities recently as it warned that such maneuvers could damage off-road trails. Since it has a big focus on environmental stewardship and minimal impact when you’re off-roading or camping, tank turns didn’t quite fit with the message.

Ford, however, doesn’t seem to share these fears of torn up tracks.

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