Tesla Cybertruck vs Ford F-150: Elon Musk’s EV gets put through its paces

The Cybertruck took on the classic Ford pickup truck.

Cybertruck vs. Ford F-150.

Tesla’s Cybertruck is taking on the best-selling vehicle in the United States. Based on released video footage, it seems Elon Musk’s all-electric pickup truck beats the Ford F-150 when the pair are pitted in a tug of war.

The CEO shared footage via Twitter Sunday of the newly-unveiled Cybertruck taking on Ford’s iconic vehicle. In the 16-second clip, it’s no contest: the Cybertruck easily pulls away with the F-150 uphill.

The footage led to a big showdown between Ford and Tesla. Ford vice president Sunny Madra told Musk to “send us a Cybertruck and we will do the apples to apples test for you,” to which Musk replied, “bring it on.”

Ford VP Sunny Madra vs Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Madra vs Musk.

But the feat could be less impressive than it first seems. Wired explained Monday that a tug of war is more a contest of mass, which could help the Cybertruck. In short, an object with more mass creates more frictional force as it pushes down toward the ground. Higher frictional force helps the vehicle create a stronger force in the opposite direction to the F-150, pulling it down the road.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, in response to Musk’s video, also argued that the video doesn’t necessarily show power:

Electric vehicles are famously heavy - over both axles. It’s all about the weight borne by spinning tires. That’s the source of traction, not the engine power.

This led to a discussion between the two, where Musk argued that electric cars also offer better torque:

Musk and NDT chat about EVs.
Musk and NDT chat about EVs.

Tesla Cybertruck: the third part of the plan

It’s an impressive feat for the truck, which Musk has compared to the F-150 several times before, during and after its unveiling on November 21. At the Tesla Design Studio in Los Angeles on a Thursday evening, Musk highlighted how the car’s weight and dimensions bore similarities to the F-150.

Little wonder why Musk was so keen to focus on the F-150. The Ford F-Series has been the top-selling vehicle in the United States for the past 42 years. Last year, the firm sold 909,330 of the vehicles.

For Musk, the Cybertruck is part of a three-pronged strategy to get more people onto electric cars. It started with the Model 3, a sedan starting at $35,000 that entered production in July 2017. It continued with the Model Y, a compact SUV set to enter production next summer with a starting price of $39,000. The $39,900 Cybertruck is only predicted to account for around five percent of Tesla’s total output, but beating the most popular vehicle in the United States is a big symbolic move for Musk’s firm.

Tesla Cybertruck vs. Ford F-150: the race is on

The Cybertruck gives the F-150 an impressive run for its money. It can carry more, with a maximum payload of 3,500 pounds versus the F-150’s 3,270 pounds, and it can tow more, with a maximum capacity of 14,000 pounds versus the F-150’s 13,200 pounds. The F-150 does win on price though, costing $28,496.

Another key differentiator is on material. The 2015 F-150 is built from a strong steel frame and a body made from 6,000-series aluminum alloy, heat treated after formation. The Cybertruck is made from 30X steel that’s been cold-rolled. Because the steel is so hard to stamp, the Cybertruck sports an angular design. Musk has compared the exterior to an exoskeleton.

The Cybertruck isn’t set to enter production until late 2021, but its specs appear to have appealed to a number of buyers. Musk confirmed this week that the company has already taken pre-orders for over 200,000 vehicles. Around 41 percent of buyers as of Saturday had ordered the version with the highest towing capacity.

Winning on mass? Maybe, but it seems the early buyers are keen on performance regardless of where it comes from.

Update 12/2 5 a.m. Eastern time: An earlier version of this story described the Cybertruck steel as being cold-rolled 30 times. It has now been corrected.

Media via Twitter, Tesla, Elon Musk/Twitter