Rivian patented a “tank turn” in 2019. Toyota did the same in 2020. Ford Authority found that Ford did the same in 2020, a few months after Toyota. In an application published this month called “Methods and Devices for Performing a Refueling,” Ford engineers describe counterclockwise and clockwise rotating tanks with a vehicle with two electric motors, while Ford does not yet have EVs with more than two engines. Rivian, who arguably started it all, showed their refueling in relation to the quad-motor R1T pickup and R1S SUV, where any wheel could be applied to turn the truck into place. Rivian hasn’t introduced the feature to its vehicles yet, so it’s possible that another maker will beat the startup into the market.
Ford’s method drives one wheel on each axle, using the brakes to hold the other wheel. To make a clockwise turn, the left front wheel turns forward, the right rear wheel turns backwards, the other two wheels are braked. An airbag suspension is also brought into play to reduce the spring load on the wheels that spin during the maneuver. Think of this technique as a more complex evolution of Ford Bronco’s Trail Turn Assist feature that locks the inner rear wheel during a turn to reduce the turning circle. By adding electric motors and another brake to turn a vehicle in a skid-steer loader, Ford’s method, like Rivian’s, is best limited to loose surfaces. The patent explains that the vehicle must approve the maneuver.
That’s not all Ford either. Another patent application published earlier this month shows a version of the GMC Hummer’s crab walk, but adds the option of the wheels on each axle pointing toward each other (extremely inward) or away from each other (extremely outward). And there was another patent application for four-wheel steering on a Super Duty that involved no electric motors, just axles with Ackermann geometry. Rotational gymnastics becomes another battleground for EVs and Ford’s busy ammunition.