Electronically Locking Differential

Differential

Differential
Before we dive into what is an Electronically Locking Differential let us have a look at what is a differential. A differential is an automotive drivetrain component that splits the torque between the drive wheels. Generally, a differential provides more torque to the wheel with less traction.
Differential working
If a car is taking a turn then the inner wheels have less radius to travel compared to the outer wheels. The differential splits the torque between the wheels providing outer wheels more torque that makes it spin faster.
Similarly, if one of the drive wheels is stuck in the mud. The wheel stuck in the mud has less traction but the differential will provide more torque to the same wheel which will bury the wheel more.

E- Locker

E- locker
The solution for the above problem is locking the differential which results in both the wheels having the same torque and speed. An electronically locking differential has an electronic actuator that can lock the differential whenever necessary. 

Differential in Off-roaders

Differential setup in off-roader
If a car is AWD then it will have three differentials for front wheels, rear wheels and between the front and rear axles which is also called a transfer case. If the car is equipped with an electronically locking differential, there are three possible drive modes that can be used depending on the condition.
1.Front differential lock and centre differential lock
2.Rear differential lock and centre differential lock
3.Centre differential lock

Locking differential using ABS

Front differential setup
If a car is two-wheel-drive, it has only one differential that can be locked. This is also as effective as the AWD unless both the driven wheels have zero traction. Now, most of the two wheel drive vehicles imitate the locking differential using ABS. Lets see how it’s done.
Wheel lost traction
Consider the car is a front wheel drive car with a normal differential. If one of the wheels is stuck in slush or somehow loses traction, then all the power is delivered to the wheel with no traction that takes you nowhere. You have to get out and push or get the car towed.
ABS for locking differential
If a car has ABS it will have the ability to apply brakes for each wheel independently. Now when one of the wheels loses traction the differential sends all the power to that wheel. Now the ABS applies brakes to the wheel that has lost traction, this will create traction or you can call it artificial traction due to which the differential sends power to other wheel.
Electronically locking in hatchbacks and sedans
The locking differentials are not only meant for off-roading, but you can also get a locking differential in tiny hatchbacks like fiat 500 and Volkswagen GTI. This is to improve safety while driving on sand or snow conditions. However, it is widely known in the off-roading world as it is one of the most important components in off-roading. 
Also read: Evolution of suspension systems

Image Credits:
Photo by Robson Hatsukami Morgan on Unsplash
Photo by JD Weiher on Unsplash
Aconcagua, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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