Ford’s 1.25-million-pound F-150 EV demo was easier than it looked, explains engineer

A Ford F-150 electric prototype pulls over 1 million pounds of cargo. (Photo: Ford Motor Company)

Last week, Ford made headlines when it released a video of its upcoming F-150 electric pickup truck pulling what could only be described as an unreal amount of weight. In the demonstration, the upcoming vehicle pulled ten double-decker rail cars, both empty and loaded with 42 gas-burning F-150s. The weight of the rail cars with the pickups in them was a whopping 1.25 million pounds, but the F-150 EV was able to pull everything without any issue. 

The demonstration was incredibly impressive, instantly eclipsing the feats of strength from other notable vehicles like the Tesla Model X, which pulled a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and the Toyota Tundra, which towed a Space Shuttle. According to auto enthusiast and mechanical engineer Jason Fenske of YouTube’s Engineering Explained channel, though, Ford’s demonstration is actually far easier than it looked. 

Fenske notes that both the 787 Dreamliner and Space Shuttle pulled by the Model X and Tundra rode on rubber tires. On the other hand, the rail cars pulled by the electric Ford F-150 rested on steel wheels riding on steel railroad tracks. This, the engineer explains, makes a notable difference, particularly with regards to the coefficient of rolling resistance (the ratio of the force required to pull a rotational mass).

“Steel does not deform much at all, which is why railroads use steel wheels on steel tracks. This adds up to an extremely low coefficient of rolling resistance—about 0.0015. To pull a 10,000-pound train across a level surface, you only need a 15-pound force. For a truck to move a 1.25-million-pound train, it only requires about 1,875 pounds of force,” Fenske wrote. 

The engineer adds that generally, the maximum force a 4WD truck can generate will be equivalent to its weight, mostly due to the grip of its tires. Since the electric Ford F-150 prototype used in the demonstration was most certainly over 1,875 pounds, it would really have no issues pulling the 1.25-million-pound load. Had the F-150 EV attempted such a feat with a load equipped with pneumatic tires on pavement, the demonstration would most definitely have resulted in a much different outcome. 

Fenske’s points were outlined in an article on Road & Track, which delved more into the math behind Ford’s demonstration. A Ford spokesperson has responded to Fenske’s arguments, pointing out that the engineer’s calculations did not evaluate acceleration. The engineer wrote that he is currently waiting for Ford to provide more information about the demo, in order to calculate exactly how much power the demonstration took.

While the F-150 EV’s feat of strength could be explained by the automaker’s choice of cargo, the demonstration remains pretty impressive nonetheless. It does, if any, raise interest in the upcoming vehicle. Unfortunately, Ford Chief Product Development Officer Hau Thai-Tang noted during an interview with Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade that the all-electric version of the F-150 is still “a couple of years out,” though a hybrid version will be released in 2020.

Ford’s 1.25-million-pound F-150 EV demo was easier than it looked, explains engineer
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