Electric pickup battles begin as Ford exec swipes back at Tesla following F-150 tow challenge

Quimby Mug Bayou Florida Headshot
Screen Shot 2019-11-27 at 8.25.06 AM

The video is very telling, if you know what to look for.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently tweeted a video showing his newly unveiled Cybertruck pulling a Ford F-150 uphill in a bumper-to-bumper towing battle. The video was also shown during last week’s bungled unveiling in California which left Cybertruck with two busted windows.

Anyone remotely familiar with propulsion tech knows that the big problem with the tow challenge is that Cybertruck is an electric pickup going up against a truck with an internal combustion engine. EVs deliver far more torque and can have instant access to every foot pound the moment the accelerator is pushed unlike ICs which have to climb up in RPMs before unleashing all their torque. Something more demonstrative, decisive and technologically honest would have been an all-electric F-150 going up against Cybertruck. Should a Don King-reveling rematch take place, both trucks should have all-wheel-drive because the F-150 in Musk’s video appears to be two-wheel-drive.

As it stands, Musk’s tow job is a big mismatch which did not go unnoticed by one of Ford’s executives.

“Hey @elonmusk send us a cybertruck and we will do the apples to apples test for you,” Sunny Madra, vice president of Ford X, tweeted Monday.

“Bring it on,” Musk tweeted back.

However, as one Twitter user pointed out, Musk didn’t actually agree to the terms of Madra’s offer.

“How would they bring it on?” asks @Nixons_Head. “If you accept the challenge, you have to send them your truck. They are actually waiting on you.”

Ford recently released a video showing their electric F-150 prototype towing over a million pounds of freight cars. It’s impressive and again reveals an EV’s great talent for tapping into huge amounts of torque.

When I test drove Workhorse’s W-15 two years ago in Long Beach naturally I had to ask about torque. I was told that engineers had purposely dialed down the W-15’s electric powertrain to keep their tires from getting smoked all over the parking lot. While over a 1,000 foot pounds is impressive in a 1-ton pickup, imagine instantly ripping out a 1,000 pound feet or more in a half-ton electric truck the moment you press the pedal.

Electric pickups will deliver plenty of impressive moments along with some tough ones too. In other words, the price for all that torque is limited range and longer pit stops for recharge times. On the plus side, an EV pickup gets a lower center of gravity owed to battery replacement between the rails. Stopping distance, according to one engineer I spoke with, is reduced since mid-chassis battery placement nixes a front-end heavy vehicle and invites equalized weight distribution between the axles for more responsive front and rear braking. And you can’t help but smile at blazing fast zero to 60mph times that will embarrass plenty of sports car fans.

But important data elsewhere is lacking. No OEMs are releasing towing and hauling data that could reveal the impact on range. Tesla reports that their tri-motor Cybertruck can tow up to 14,000 pounds. So…is that to the local Walmart and back? “Honey, I stocked up on 14,000 pounds of nacho cheese sauce! We’re Super Bowl ready for the next 1,000 years!”

OEMs will eventually have to get these electric pickups to reporters for testing. Hard Working Trucks is more than happy to help. We just hauled another flatbed and truck bed full of hurricane debris today. I’d like to see how an electric pickup would fare. The Nissan Titan XD, Ford F-250 Limited and Ram 3500 Limited pickups I recently tested handled the work just fine with plenty of miles to spare. Just don’t send me an electric pickup if another hurricane’s on the way. Prior to Cat 5 Michael, we kept seeing more Tesla, Nissan and Chevy EVs on the streets here in Panama City, Fla. But after the power was down (roughly two weeks for us; others experienced longer or shorter blackouts), EVs were nowhere to be seen when capability counted most.