Sometime ago Elon Musk boldly stated the Tesla pickup truck, the one that no one has seen, will have a 300,000-pound towing capacity. Of course that’s bullshit for many reasons. Towing capacities are generally based on the industry’s SAE J2807. That standard takes into account cooling capacity, performance on grade, handling, braking, the hitch, and other things of importance when towing. Even automakers who don’t adhere to this standard are limited by tire type and the vehicle’s own strength and safety.
But could vehicles tow more than than what they are rated? Sure. They could, just travel to any third-world country and you’ll see it. Heck, you could probably see it on your nearest highway as truckers frequently abuse the maximum weight limits. Could Elon Musk’s pickup pull 300,000-pounds? Yes. Would that be its towing capacity as per SAE J2807? No way in hell. Further, each state limits maximum vehicle weight, usually at 80,000-pounds, perhaps slightly more in some places with a special permit, and only on some roads.
But, dude, you say, the Toyota Tundra pulled the freakin’ Space Shuttle some time ago! It sure did, two miles an hour so everybody sees you. Right, but pulling and towing are not the same. This is why there are videos of THE WORLD’S STRONGEST MAN! pulling a huge cargo plane.
Ford will have a hybrid F-150 on the market by next year. And they now they promise that they will also have an all-electric F-150. This is exciting stuff as I think that a hybrid or electric versions of pickup trucks make more sense than just about any other vehicle. And today they are showing the prototype all-electric F-150 towing ten double-decker rail cars filled with 42 F-150s, weighing more than a million pounds. Cool, impressive, and gives Elon the middle finger.
BUT!!!… Using trucks to move rail cars around isn’t anything new. The rails are smooth, so the biggest challenge is breaking the initial static friction. Once going, the rail cars will roll smoothly with little energy. The tricky part is stopping a moving a train. Ford’s video does not show that. And the F-150 does not have an compressor huge enough to pressure the brake pipe to the 90psi needed to stop a 10-car freight train. In the video they just used a rope to pull the train and I have no idea how they stopped it.
Regardless, the stunt was made to create a buzz about the upcoming F150 EV and F150 hybrid, and to annoy Elon and his band of followers. Mission accomplished. In the meantime, if you need to move 300,000 or a million pounds, use the good old train.