When I saw Sunny Madra’s tweet challenging Elon Musk to an “apples to apples” comparison of Cybertruck vs Ford, I was excited. As I’ve pointed out in a previous article, I don’t hate Cybertruck, but I do have concerns about the unintended consequences of the departure from a standard truck’s form factor due to lost functionality. It looked like Ford was going to step up, and the resulting competition would presumably be better for everybody in the long run (more on this below).
Elon Musk accepted the challenge, but Ford’s media department indicated to several outlets that the challenge wasn’t really going to happen. That’s a mistake.
If you’re placed highly at Ford and you’re reading this, it’s time to step up.
What Would an “Apples to Apples” Truck Pull Look Like?
As Motor1 points out (and Sunny linked to), what Tesla did was hardly a fair comparison. Completely ignoring the gas vs. electric issue, one vehicle used four tires for traction, while the other used only two. On top of that, putting the F-150 downhill isn’t an advantage when you consider that the vehicle’s weight is shifted away from its drive wheels, making it more of an advantage to the Tesla prototype. Finally, they gave the Tesla a head start, allowing it to gather traction before the F-150 was even moving.
Finally, they chose one of the lower EcoBoost models, and not the one with top power (that comes in the Raptor) that would really be comparable to the Tesla prototype used. Really, the most comparable production F-150 pickup would likely be something like the Raptor, with much more power and much more traction with four-wheel drive in low gear.
But we also need to keep in mind that the Cybertruck is not a production vehicle. Many Tesla fans act like it is, but in one tweet (above), Elon Musk indicates that they aren’t even sure how exactly they’re going to put this vehicle into mass production. It really is just a prototype.
Thus, if we are going to really be fair, Ford would get to bring an all-wheel-drive EV prototype of its own.
We don’t know much about Ford’s prototype trucks yet, but the company is clearly a serious contender. The rumor mill says the electric F-150 is based on Rivian trucks, or has underlying Rivian technology, and that may be the case, but it wouldn’t matter. [Editor’s note: I read somewhere that Ford isn’t using Rivian tech for the electric F-150, but I have not seen that truly confirmed one way or the other.] If Tesla can buy Maxwell to make batteries with better longevity, then it would be perfectly fair for Ford to acquire technology and/or platforms from Rivian. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Turnabout is fair play, no?
We also don’t know at this point what other prototypes Ford would have up its sleeves. Considering the towing and cargo capacity claimed by Tesla for the Cybertruck, it would be perfectly reasonable to pit it against an F-250 or F-350 EV prototype, or even one with a Powerstroke if Ford chose to do that.
Either way, a true “apples to apples” comparison — the one Elon Musk accepted the challenge for — would be truly competitive, and on level ground.
Why Does This Matter, Though?
As I pointed out in my other article, unibody or unibody-like platforms don’t necessarily serve the wider truck market very well. The lack of modularity and the lack of a properly shaped bed for accessories and loading/unloading are real problems. There are many, many truck buyers who would prefer a traditional truck shape and body-on-frame setup for reasons other than vanity or tradition.
The problem is that those of us who want a better truck could end up out in the cold if electric pickups end up all being basically fancy Honda Ridgelines. Despite the power and payload capacities claimed, it still wouldn’t serve the wants and needs of many buyers. Yes, any one type of buyer is a niche market, but the long tail of niche markets adds up to something that can’t be ignored.
If mainstream consumer-grade pickups do end up all shifting to unibody designs, manufacturers will come along and serve that market, but without the economies of scale that existed serving both markets. It could get to the point where the only way to get the pickup one needs would be to spend over $100,000, assuming it’s available at all. People using a truck for a living, or for self-contained RV and overlanding adventures, and those pulling fifth wheels, among many others, wouldn’t have access to EVs.
If the transition to renewable energy matters, we can’t be leaving people out in the cold. Those buyers will find a truck, and it won’t run on electrons.
This is why serious truck buyers need Ford to stand up to the challenge and put a real truck against this Cybertruck prototype. Not only would this show that body-on-frame is still a thing, but it would also help encourage friendly competition. This increased competition would benefit us all, including people who love ugly duckling truck prototypes.
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