Horsepower and 0–60 times may reign in the world of cars, but torque and towing capacity earn bragging rights in the domain of pickup trucks. A while back, Toyota showed that a Tundra could tow a 300,000-pound space shuttle. Now, Ford has released video of an even more impressive pull by a prototype all-electric F-150—a train that weighs about 1.25 million pounds, by our arithmetic.
In addition to investing half a billion dollars in the Rivian electric truck startup, Ford has been developing a battery-electric pickup of its own. Linda Zhang, the F-150’s chief engineer, indicated that production versions probably won’t have nearly that kind of capacity, and won’t go on sale until after the first hybrid F-150 arrives in 2020. Nevertheless, Ford wanted to push the envelope when testing the prototype.
“We’re really just trying to test how extreme we could get it,” Zhang told the Detroit News. “This is really the tough truck testing.”
Obviously more of a publicity stunt than an ISO-9001 certified procedure, the tough “test” involved loading forty-two 2019 F-150 pickups onto 10 double-decker railcars. Why 42? Because Ford has been the leading full-size pickup truck maker in the U.S. for 42 years. Also, lined up end to end, the 42 trucks stretch to more than a thousand feet, a suitable distance for the test. With Zhang at the wheel, the electric F-150 first towed the railcars, which weigh more than a million pounds empty. The prototype handled that just fine, so they loaded the 42 trucks onto the train.
The railcars and trucks totaled over 1.25 million pounds, give or take an ounce or three. Ford hitched them to the prototype and let maximum torque at stall do the rest.
“Truck owners have been very skeptical of the fact that we were able to do this,” Zhang said. “We expect to deliver that level of built Ford tough. We've got them in mind.”
Whether or not truck owners were skeptical such a stunt could be performed is probably irrelevant. Car companies have been performing silly car and truck tricks for over a century now. Nobody was likely skeptical that Volvo could stack six sedans without any of them crumpling—but that stunt sold a lot of 140s.
Zhang wouldn’t reveal target cargo and towing capacities for the production BET (battery electric truck) but she did say that it would meet the same benchmarks as combustion-powered Ford pickups.
In recent years, pickup truck buyers have increasingly diverged from the gasoline-powered V-8 engines that have traditionally powered full-size pickups. Alternatives gaining in popularity include diesel power, Ford's EcoBoost V-6 engines, and, recently, Chevy's 2.7-liter turbo-four. The pickup market as a whole seems to care less about what is under the hood than whether the truck can carry and pull the loads customers need to haul. When electric trucks do arrive, this video aims to convince us, not much will change.