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How Rivian’s electric ute will change off-roading forever

Clever technology in electric cars will introduce new capabilities for next-generation utes and four-wheel-drives.

American EV maker Rivian is set to introduce a new range of talents in its upcoming ute, giving drivers new tools to exploit when travelling off-road.

The start-up’s first car has an electric motor in each wheel. It can drive like a regular car, or like a skid-steer bobcat or bulldozer, rotating the right and left wheels in opposite directions in order to turn the car.

Patent information published by Car and Driver shows Rivian is set to introduce a new “K-turn” feature allowing the car to swivel around one rear wheel that remains at a fixed point.

The feature allows the car to get out of a tricky space with reduced risk of getting bogged.

It also has the potential to dramatically reduce its turning cycle, allowing the car to rotate in place, or turn around prohibitively tight corners.

Similar strategies are used by compact Formula SAE racing machines prepared by university students.

Best left for off-road use, the feature has the potential to wear out tyres on grippy tarmac.

Rivian has expressed interest in selling cars to Australian drivers, but has not announced formal plans to distribute its ute and SUV here.

Rivian isn’t the only company experimenting with features we have not seen from established brands.

Hummer’s upcoming electric ute has four-wheel-steering that goes further than that found in existing models. A clever “Crab walk” setting allows the front and rear wheels to steer in the same direction, giving drivers the opportunity to travel diagonally at low speed.

Tesla’s Elon Musk says production versions of the controversial “Cybertruck” ute will have rear-wheel-steering, though the brand has not clarified exactly how it will be used.

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