Tesla Cybertruck Killer: Are Electric Cars Bad At Towing?


I recently wrote about why I think that the real Tesla Cybertruck Killer could be its towing range. Electric cars are plenty great at towing stuff, they’re more efficient than ICE vehicles as well. However, they have one Achilles heel that manufacturers need to fix before these trucks can be launched into the mainstream market.

Jason Fenske, who runs a YouTube channel called Engineering Explained, is an ardent supporter of electric vehicles and he himself owns a Tesla Model 3 Performance. In his latest video, he breaks down the math of why electric vehicles have a hard time towing heavy loads for long-distance.

In his video, he explained that the main enemies of electric cars, like the Tesla Cybertruck, in this case, are smaller battery packs and less energy density.

Electric vehicles are great at towing heavy payloads and are able to do so in a better way than conventional vehicles. In his video, Jason explains using a bunch of calculations to prove his point, which is ultimately right, but he misses one final conclusion from his video.

Take a look at Jason’s video to find out more.

Tesla Cybertruck Killer: Is It Bad At Towing?

As you can see in the video, Jason performs a bunch of calculations by taking into account all the forces acting on the electric vehicles when they tow a trailer. He took the example of the Tesla Model X P100D with a 100 kWh battery and the Tesla Cybertruck, whose battery he assumed to be around 200 kWh.

“So as far as daily driving electric cars today, they’re doing just fine. The problem comes when they’re towing something,” said Jason.

All of his calculations only focused on one equation that says: ‘Energy = Force X Distance.’

“The only thing we’re interested in here is how much energy is required to move around this electric vehicle and how much energy do we have,” Jason explained.

He begins his calculation by explaining how a Tesla Model X is highly efficient compared to a Ford F-150, but with a 36-gallon gas tank option, the former simply has access to more energy at hand.

The Model X has 100 kWh of energy in its battery pack, while the Cybertruck with its assumed 200 kWh battery can deliver 500 mils of range. On the other hand, 1 gallon of gasoline has 33.7 kWh of energy, meaning a Ford F-150 with a 25-gallon tank either has 775 kWh of energy or 1200 kWh worth of energy with a 36-gallon tank option.

However, what makes all the difference is how efficiently these vehicles use this energy. The Tesla Model X with its 100 kWh battery pack delivers 328 miles of range, which is equivalent to more than 1000 MPGe. On the other hand, if we go with the official mileage figure of 19MPGe of the Ford F-150, we’ll get a total range of 437 miles with the 25-gallon gas tank version and  684 miles with the 36-gallon fuel tank.

“Well our Cybertruck, with about a fourth of the energy of the Ford F-150 is able to travel further, that’s insanely efficient,” commented Jason.

Jason then put both the electric vehicles to the test by adding some weight behind them in the form of a trailer. For the Model X, the trailer weighed about 5,000 pounds with an additional 500 pounds of load in the car’s boot. For the Tesla Cybertruck, he assigned a 6,000-pound trailer for it to tow along with an additional 500 pounds of luggage.

He then assumed three acting forces on both the vehicles, namely aerodynamic drag, rolling resistance and the acting force of gravity while going up a hill. After a bunch of calculations the result, for the Model X, came out to be not so positive. In order to maintain a constant speed of 75 miles per hour, while carrying the load over a distance of 100 miles, the Model X would need 100.4 kWh of energy, which is more than its battery pack.

However, if we reduced the speed down to 60 mph, the energy requirement would go down to 84 kWh. Lastly, if we removed any sort of additional weight from the car and then went up the hill, the resultant energy consumed would be 51.3 kWh.

Jason’s results are almost accurate to real-world testing, I know this because, in our recent ‘Towing is the Tesla Cybertruck killer’ analysis, a long-range Model X was used to haul a similarly heavy trailer. The test was done by ‘The Fast Lane Truck’; they tied a 4,400-pound trailer with the Model X and drove it on a highway loop.

In their testing, they found out that the Model X was consuming 922wh/mile and delivering 1 mile of range with every 1% battery charge. It seems like a super high consumption rate, but convert the same figure to MPGe and you’ll realize that the car is delivering 40MPGe, which the Ford F-150 can’t deliver even while being unladen.

One of our readers, who owns a Ford F-150 Eco-Boost version, told us that he gets around 10-11MPG while towing a similar weight while going slightly uphill. His friend, who owns a Chevy Pickup, gets around 6-7 miles per gallon. In both these cases, the trucks deliver very poor efficiency but they have large gas tanks so they get away with it.

Tesla Cybertruck, while towing 6,600 pounds, consumed 170 kWh of energy from its 200 kWh battery, according to Jason’s calculations. This only means that towing is not the real Cybertruck killer, electric cars only have a relatively small battery that’s why they can’t travel with a payload for long-distance. Also, keep in mind that the calculation of Cybertruck’s performance is based on several assumptions and does not reflect its real-world performance.

Tesla Electric Cars Are Plenty Good When It Comes To Towing

The conclusion that Jason and I both arrived at is that electric vehicles are highly efficient and deliver more MPG than conventional ICE vehicles in all situations. They have a large storage of energy so they’re able to travel further without caring about efficiency.

As previously established, towing is not the real Tesla Cybertruck killer. Electric cars are more than sufficient to handle huge amounts of load.

Also, I don’t necessarily agree with the calculated laden range of the Tesla Cybertruck because we only know its range. We don’t know its battery chemistry or the energy density of the cells in its battery pack, thus predicting its real laden battery range is not possible at the moment.

Jason concluded the video with good news by saying: “If we triple our energy density or double our energy density of today’s battery technology then we’re in the sweet spot and electric cars are going to be running away with this all day.”

“We have seen this type of improvement in electric batteries and there is no reason to assume why they won’t do this in the future.” Jason further concluded.

Also Read: Tesla Model 3 Autopilot Gracefully Avoids Road Barrels At 125 km/h
Yetnesh Dubey

Yetnesh Dubey

Associate Editor at Fossbytes. Yetnesh manages the everyday editorial duties and oversees the writing staff. He occasionally covers news related to electric vehicles and tech.
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