Off-roading enthusiasts know that having a locking differential on your car when going off the beaten track can make life a lot easier when the trail gets sketchy. Some cars come equipped from the factory with locking diffs, usually on the rear axle, but more hardcore models like the Mercedes-Benz G-Class can be specced with up to three locking diffs.

Pickup trucks are no different. However, electric pickup trucks can be different because of their ability to incorporate multiple motors on a single axle which can simulate a locking diff. But a virtual diff relies on software which can be fiddly, while a physical unit locks the two wheels of an axle together, making them rotate at the same speed. So how do four of America’s electric pickup trucks compare when it comes to delivering power to the ground?

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Four electric pickups, four approaches

Each of the four pickup trucks shown in the video embedded at the top of this video uses a different approach to put the power down on the road when things get slippery. The Ford F-150 Lightning is the only car in the group to have a working physical locking diff, while the others rely on software to keep going when the going gets tough.

The video embedded above, published by our friends at Out of Spec Reviews, highlights the differences between the drivetrains of the Tesla Cybertruck, Chevrolet Silverado EV, Ford F-150 Lightning, and Rivian R1T.

While all of them are battery-powered vehicles, all of them have different drivetrain setups, making them ideal candidates for this short explainer video.

The Tesla Cybertruck shown is a tri-motor version known as the Cyberbeast, which has a single electric motor and a physical locking differential on the front axle and a pair of electric motors on the rear axle that Tesla says will be able to simulate a locking differential. However, neither the front locker nor the rear virtual locker are enabled in the Cybertruck currently, with availability coming in a future software update.

The Rivian R1T is the quad-motor version which doesn’t have any physical lockers and relies completely on software to get the truck out of sticky situations by sending more power to the wheels with the most traction.

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The Chevrolet Silverado work truck is in a similar position, in the sense that it has open differentials front and rear, but unlike the R1T in this video, it only has two electric motors, one on each axle, enabling four-wheel drive. It also relies on its traction control system to modulate braking and power delivery to get unstuck.

The dual-motor Ford F-150 Lightning is the only model in the video embedded at the top of this page that comes with a physical locking differential on the rear axle, which–as you’ll see–makes a huge difference even when trying to climb a rather easy obstacle. When the locker is engaged, the two rear wheels always turn at the same speed, meaning there’s always traction even if one of the wheels is hanging in the air.

Go ahead and watch the 30-minute explainer and let us know what you think in the comments below.

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