Innovative axle concept allows steering angles of up to 80 degrees

The EasyTurn axle system delivers a ridiculously tight turning circle. Images © ZF

Driving a car is simple. Hit the gas to go, press the breaks to stop, and spin the wheel to turn – easy! But then comes parallel parking, the bane of all drivers’ existence. The task can trip up the best of drivers, and the fear of holding up traffic can break the will of the strongest people. There never seems to be enough room, and cars just don’t have the appropriate turning radius. However, all of that could change soon.

US/German auto parts company ZF has developed a new axle technology to drastically decrease a cars’ turning radius. With the company’s cost-effective technology, simple design, and proven concept, the fear of parallel parking could soon be a thing of the past.

The concept

The front wheels of traditional cars can only rotate about 35 degrees, making U-turns, getting out of tight spaces, and parallel parking a pain in the neck. On the other hand, ZF’s new axle technology called EasyTurn will enable front wheels to rotate 80 degrees, and cars to perform a tight turning circle.

To achieve such an increase in maneuverability, ZF came up with the simple solution of adding a couple of extra suspension links to each front wheel. Not only does it improve the wheels turning ability, but, in theory, it’s cheap to manufacture and could easily be added to affordable vehicles.

ZF recently released a concept video that features the EasyTurn axle fitted onto an electric BMW i3. The video shows the car making ridiculously sharp U-turns and parallel parking in compact spaces. The new turning ability might take a little time to get used to, but once mastered, it could make the most difficult parts of driving a walk through the park.

With EasyTurn steering angles of up to 80 degrees are possible, making ultra-tight maneuvers almost effortless.

Hurdles

If it’s so easy, why hasn’t this been done before? Well, there are still a few hurdles ZF has to jump over before its new axle can be used with every car. For example, the axle will demand a larger wheel well to allow 80-degree turning. Most car manufacturers use that space for crash-structure frame rails, and it would be nearly impossible for ZF to work around that. It would also be difficult for most cars to provide enough torque at such extreme angles.

ZF has its hands full figuring out how to implement EasyTurn technology with standard vehicles. However, the company likely has its eyes set on electric vehicles (EVs), which would better fit the new axle.

Could this be the future?

ZF EasyTurn technology could absolutely be the future of EVs if things keep going the way they are. ZF has claimed its technology is picture-perfect for electric cars with a rear-mounted motor, which would include most EV models.

ZF EasyTurn Innovative Strut Suspension
The innovative strut suspension axle system.

The BMW i3 used in the video is a good indicator that the company is having success. If ZF manages to strike a manufacturing deal with a major car brand, the technology could become the future standard.

Availability

The company hasn’t provided a timeline or official cost of the EasyTurn axle. Most car enthusiasts assume that the concept is still in its beginning stages and that it could be years before a mass-produced vehicle uses it. So, for now, drivers will have to continue parallel parking with a 35-degree turning radius and cross their fingers that ZF EasyTurn becomes accessible in the near future.

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