The glorious Tank Turn feature that Rivian showed off way back in December 2019 got a lot of truck and off-road enthusiasts talking, for good reason.
The mode showed off the possibility of using all four of the electric motors in Quad Motor R1T and R1S electric trucks to rotate the vehicle around and around in essentially the same space, given a surface that was the right amount of slippery.
It was a jaw-dropping move that Rivian managed to program in—applying propulsion to the wheels in opposite directions on the left and right sides of the vehicle, in a very controlled manner, that would be next to impossible to engineer into a normal roadgoing gasoline SUV.
Rivian Tank Turn
In an Instagram Q&A session posted Friday, Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe still sounded excited about the idea, explaining how with the instantaneous torque (in either direction) of electric motors plus an array of sophisticated controls and a feedback loop, “you can create a torque moment where the vehicle rotates on its center axis like a tank.”
But Scaringe explained (below) why the Tank Turn feature will likely never make it into a production truck.
Electric trucks need to tread lightly, too
No, Scaringe didn’t mention lawyers or regulators putting the kibosh on it.
The reason is simple, if the scar that the truck left in the video isn’t enough to underscore the point already. The Tank Turn has the potential to be really destructive.
Scaringe said that over the last year and a half, Rivian decided that while it could implement the Tank Turn, it’s just not consistent with the company’s messaging to tread lightly.
“It's so easily abused and so hard to make sure that we don't tear up trails and really do things that are in contrast to what we stand for as a company,” he summed, noting that it didn’t feel congruent with how Rivian preaches respecting the trails and not leaving ruts or damage.
This likely suggests that another patented Rivian parlor trick, K-Turn Mode, is also a no-go. But the off-road prowess of the layout itself remains the selling point. And as nearly everyone who’s gone off-roading in an EV will agree, the extreme finesse and precision at which electric propulsion systems can deliver torque makes off-roading far more enjoyable and less nerve-wracking. Rivian does already take advantage of this with distinct drive modes for the R1T and R1S.
Mercedes-Benz EQG prototype
Although it’s unclear whether Rivian might have dibs on the idea, Mercedes has already also teased the idea for its upcoming EQG electric SUV, calling it a G-Turn.
Rivian is in the process of starting deliveries of its Dual Motor trucks, which feature the company’s own, cost-saving Enduro drive unit, including motor and reduction gear. They’ll eventually be applied to Quad Motor versions, too.