Ford patents new-design ‘drift mode’ feature on future petrol and electric cars

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A patented drift technology from Ford shows an artificial handbrake to initiate a slide, unlike most which use power.


US car maker Ford has filed a patent application for a new type of drift mode feature for electric and petrol-powered cars.

As reported by Motor Authority, the patent was submitted in September 2020 but was reportedly only published late last year by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The system is said to initiate a sideways drift by using the car’s brakes to lock the rear wheels, and “[decouple them] from the driveline via clutches to allow them to spin freely”.

To maintain an ideal drift – still with the wheels decoupled from the vehicle’s engine or main electric motors – a dedicated electric motor would be used to apply torque to the wheels as the car’s computer sees fit.

It appears to be different to the ‘drift brake’ in the new Ford Mustang in the US, which uses the hardware for the car’s electronic handbrake to lock the rear wheels and initiate a drift – but it is up to the driver to continue the slide.

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Ford claims this patented drift feature could be compatible with future petrol, electric and hybrid vehicles.

The patent is also different to the ‘drift mode’ in the Ford Focus RS hot hatch, which used its all-wheel-drive system to route all of the power sent to the rear axle to the outside rear wheel – breaking traction, and pushing the car into a slide.

This design was subsequently adopted by the Mercedes-AMG A45 S and Volkswagen Golf R. All three cars have trick rear differentials with clutch packs which can vary how much of the torque sent to the rear axle is distributed to each wheel.

Larger Mercedes-AMG models – as well as all-wheel-drive BMW M cars – can drift by decoupling their front driveshafts and sending all of the vehicle’s power to the rear wheels.

The all-wheel-drive Kia EV6 GT electric car also has a drift mode, which too sends power exclusively to the rear wheels.

Audi executives once deemed drift mode a “waste of time” – yet backflipped for the latest Audi RS3 hot hatch, which uses the same rear differential and drift-mode operation as the VW Golf R, albeit with different branding.

The latest BMW M3 and M4 have a ‘M Drift Analyser’ which, while they do not activate a specific mode that makes drifting possible, gives drifts performed by the driver a star rating out of five, based on time, distance, and slip angle.

Car manufacturers offer drift modes with the disclaimer they are only used on private land – such as race tracks – and not on public roads, where their use would be considering hooning, and unsafe.

At the time of the Focus RS drift mode’s introduction, then-president of the Australian Medical Association, Professor Brian Owler, said: “The problem is most people don’t have access to a racetrack. Without a racetrack it’s [drift mode] is inherently dangerous.”

Ethan Cardinal graduated with a Journalism degree in 2020 from La Trobe University and has been working in the fashion industry as a freelance writer prior to joining Drive in 2023. Ethan greatly enjoys investigating and reporting on the cross sections between automotive, lifestyle and culture. Ethan relishes the opportunity to explore how deep cars are intertwined within different industries and how they could affect both casual readers and car enthusiasts.

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