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The electric Rivian R1T pickup will be able to pull a 180 like a tank

Rivian has developed a “tank-turn” function that will give the R1T the ability to perform a 180-degree turn on its own axis, without moving forward or backward. The truck’s quad-motor electric drivetrain makes this cool feature possible.

Most tanks can spin around because their left and right tracks are individually operated. Spinning the tracks on one side forward while simultaneously putting the ones on the other side in reverse allows the vehicle to rotate on its own axis. Cars can’t do this because all four wheels turn in the same direction — you’re either in drive or in reverse, not both.

Rivian’s R1T is a little bit different. Its powertrain consists of a huge lithium-ion battery pack that zaps four individual electric motors into motion. This setup makes it easy to control how much torque each motor sends to its corresponding wheel, and which direction each spins it in. Much like a tank, the R1T can turn its left-front and left-rear wheels forward, while spinning the other two backwards to turn around like it’s on a rotating platform.

The video demonstrating this feature shows an R1T, but it’s reasonable to assume the R1S will also receive it because both models are close to identical under the sheet metal. Lincoln’s rumored Rivian-based SUV could get it, too.

We first heard about Rivian’s high-tech alternative to a U-turn when an allegedly fake video surfaced on YouTube in the summer of 2019. This time, it’s real. You’ll need to be patient before you can leave the asphalt and try out a tank turn on your favorite trail, though. Boosted by sizable investments from Ford and Amazon, Rivian is busily transforming the R1T from a concept to a production model, but the first example isn’t scheduled to roll off the assembly line until late 2020.

The tank-turn function joins the R1T’s impressive roster of capabilities. Rivian also developed a clever portable kitchen that fits into the wide storage compartment integrated into the space right above the truck’s chassis. It slides out to reveal drawers for pots, pans, and other utensils, a small countertop, and an electric stove that draws electricity from the battery pack. There are a lot of electric cars on the market, and many more are due out in the early 2020s, but Rivian is increasingly standing out from its peers by finding creative, useful ways to leverage the advantages of battery-powered technology.

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Ronan Glon
Ronan Glon is an American automotive and tech journalist based in southern France. As a long-time contributor to Digital…
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