4WD tech "all but reached its furthest point" says Land Rover

Submitted: Tuesday, Jul 20, 2010 at 13:21
ThreadID: 80185 Views:3191 Replies:4 FollowUps:5
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Interesting article on Carpoint that I thought would be of interest to readers here. Make of it what you will:

Carpoint story

Four-wheel drive technology development has all-but reached its furthest point, according to engineer for Land Rover, Roger Crathorne.

However, the auto industry could benefit from following the path of heavy machinery manufacturers, capitalising on hybrid development and eventually, motor-in-wheel applications that would do away with traction aids.

Crathorne told the Carsales Network that while 4WD vehicle makers had likely reached the end of the development and integration of driving aids like hill descent control, one or two other opportunities for further enhancement existed for manufacturers.

"We will see hybrid technology come into play," says Crathorne. "The world and our customers are going to force us to do something different than what we're doing at the moment.

"I can actually see us doing what they do for the enormous quarry trucks, which have a small motor -- either hydraulic or electric -- in the wheels."

The trucks Crathorne's referring to use a powerful diesel-electric powertrains, much like a train, to power in-wheel motors.

Implemented on a much smaller scale for the passenger car market, the benefits of this include specific-to-wheel control, meaning offroad driver aids like ascent and descent control would be made redundant.

"This would give us an amazing amount of flexibility," he said. But the challenge remains offering the feature at a "realistic price".

Land Rover does not have any plans to develop the technology, he was quick to add. The idea is just one of Crathorne's visions for the future of 4WD development; especially as it would capitalise on the influx of hybrid technology.

Using an electric motor avails massive torque and, to reduce the power the vehicle needs, as well as emissions, Crathorne says the energy can be transferred to the wheels electrically or hydraulically.

Both systems are extremely expensive but Crathorne is "sure" the technology will one day make it to 4WD passenger cars.

Traction aids like anti-lock braking sensors "do a hell of a big job" in four-wheel drive cars like Land Rovers. ABS not only determines whether the vehicle is braking correctly but also monitors differential and wheel speed, which allows the opportunity to selectively hold or brake a spinning wheel and drive one with traction. This control can be actuated forward or backwards in a car, and even diagonally when required.

Crathorne suggests that with electric or hydraulic motors, an experienced offroad driver would be able to almost turn the vehicle using the fiddle brakes (torque vectoring) function built in to stability systems.

The industry veteran has not drawn design sketches and is "not sure if anyone else has". But "there's a lot of potential there," he said.

"We can't take much further what we've already got now," he explained.

Crathorne says the ultimate next step would be for a system to automatically determine what kind of surface it is on. "That would be very clever if anyone can manage it."

The idea has been talked about for many years, he said, and not just by Land Rover but other offroad vehicle makers.

According to Crathorne, when LR first developed its Terrain Response system, engineers came to speak to him, requesting a function that would effectively "place an instructor like me in the passenger seat" and that instructor would dial-in whatever surface the vehicle was traversing.

One day, Crathorne says, driver aids like LR's Terrain Response won't need the information dialled in, because systems will be clever enough to determine surfaces via elements such as temperature for snow.

"I don't know how we'll pull that off, but it's an interesting thought," he said.
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Reply By: Robin Miller - Tuesday, Jul 20, 2010 at 14:19

Tuesday, Jul 20, 2010 at 14:19
Goodness me - maybe they could start reverse engineering to go forward by putting wheel travel, ground clearance and simplicity for reliability back into these things instead of more control systems Road Warrior.
Robin Miller

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Follow Up By: Member - Morry H (WA) - Tuesday, Jul 20, 2010 at 18:09

Tuesday, Jul 20, 2010 at 18:09
i think DICK TRACY JULES VERN DR WHO and all the comic characters have a lot to answer to regards morry
Titan our wonderful traveling companion

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Follow Up By: Steve - Tuesday, Jul 20, 2010 at 18:19

Tuesday, Jul 20, 2010 at 18:19
they have Robin - it's called a Defender

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Follow Up By: skulldug - Tuesday, Jul 20, 2010 at 18:22

Tuesday, Jul 20, 2010 at 18:22

I couldn't agree more. We spend a small fortune buying what are supposedly the best 4x4 vehicles available only to have to spend thousands more making them capable of going off road. I don't understand why they can't get the basics right. As you said, its just ground clearance, wheel travel, simplicity (repairability) and reliability. I would add tyres, approach and departure angles, storage (instead of disappearing third row seats) and when all else fails, the ability to beam me up Scotty.

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Follow Up By: Mike DiD - Wednesday, Jul 21, 2010 at 08:39

Wednesday, Jul 21, 2010 at 08:39
But imagine the whee-travel and ground-clearance you could have easily, if there was no Diff, due to a motor inside each wheel.
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Reply By: 2000 Red Rodeo - Tuesday, Jul 20, 2010 at 20:11

Tuesday, Jul 20, 2010 at 20:11
Got to wonder who writes this nonsense.

I could see a Hybrid 4wd being as popular as a Hybrid Camry. That is unless the gov't decides to buy them because no one else wants them.

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Reply By: vk1dx - Wednesday, Jul 21, 2010 at 08:42

Wednesday, Jul 21, 2010 at 08:42
I hope the remote driver assist keypad for driving from the rear seat comes in designer colours.

Thanks god we will not be buying any more cars. We even hesitated at getting an auto.

We like to drive not be driven.

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Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Wednesday, Jul 21, 2010 at 14:12

Wednesday, Jul 21, 2010 at 14:12
In-wheel motors make portal axles easy (and reliable), then you can have whatever ground clearance you want. Adjustable too if you like.
Nothing new of course, been used in agricultural gear for decades.
Wait until Toyota does it. Only tourists buy Landrovers (and OKAs?).

OKA196 Motorhome
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Follow Up By: OzTroopy - Wednesday, Jul 21, 2010 at 14:59

Wednesday, Jul 21, 2010 at 14:59
Yep ... Im all for portal / in wheel motors along with mikeDiD and Peter.

Has been lots of smaller machines than mine dumptrucks using the technology for years.

Id like a hydraulic setup instead of electric though ... and a hydraulic winch and a hydraulic tipper trailer and ... and .... LOL .....all running off the same pump ...

Would be cute to open a toyota bonnet and gaze at the 16hp honda motor or whatever .... spinning the big oil pump ... LOL

Electric drive might be cheaper and better power to weight tho.
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