In trying to demonstrate how strong the Cybertruck supposedly is, Musk had a F-150 pointed downhill, a Cybertruck pointed uphill, and a cable in between to connect then. He then had the F-150 try to drive down the hill while the Cybertruck drove up the hill, appearing to beat the F-150 in terms of strength.
But what the video footage of this little stunt does not reveal is the fact that electric vehicles like the Cybertruck, as well as Tesla's other vehicle offerings, are extremely heavy, especially over their axles. This means that they press harder on the ground, giving them extra grip and the illusion of more power compared to an F-150 with an empty truck bed, which is what was used in the demonstration.
Further, the F-150 appears to have been a rear wheel drive, and also had nothing in its truck bed. This means that, relative to the Cybertruck, the F-150 was lighter, and thus didn't have as much ground-grip as the Cybertruck – meaning it didn't stand a chance at beating the Cybertruck.
"Electric vehicles are famously heavy – over both axles," Tyson pointed out in a tweet response to Musk's video. "It's all about the weight borne by spinning tires. That's the source of traction, not the engine power."
Musk responded to Tyson by trying to claim that electric motors have "insane torque," and that if both trucks were fully loaded "to the max" that "electric still wins." Musk even tried to claim that he's more knowledgeable of physics than Tyson, to which Tyson responded:
"We all love Torque. But high Torque just spins a tire in place if there's not enough weight to provide tractions. Fully load the F150, giving highest traction to its rear wheels, then try to drag that up the hill. I otherwise agree: Load both to the max and the highest torque wins."
Musk has yet to take Tyson up on this challenge, even though Tyson is absolutely right. Musk staged his Cybertruck demonstration in such a way as to basically deceive potential buyers into thinking that the vehicle is stronger than it likely is – just like how Tesla is deceiving Model S buyers into believing that these cars are safe, even though lots of them are bursting into flames unexpectedly.
"What deGrasse Tyson pointed out was that the stunt did not actually prove how strong the truck's engine was," writes Fabienne Lang for Interesting Engineering. "Using his physics knowledge, deGrasse Tyson claims that this demonstration wouldn't be enough to prove this particular point."
"What this demonstration shows instead, according to deGrasse Tyson, is the Physics of Friction, rather than engine power," Lang adds.
The only thing this demonstration showed, in other words, is that a Tesla Cybertruck is heavier than a Ford F-150, and this extra weight kept the Cybertruck's wheels firmly planted into the ground, as opposed to the tires on the F-150, which spun in place as it was dragged up the hill by the Cybertruck.
"A bada** @Tesla looking like it's doing a bada** thing," Tyson joked in another tweet.
"But if the @Ford F-150 is RWD **with no payload** then weight on the Rear Axle is greatly reduced, offering only mild traction for the Tesla to overcome. This contest is more about the Physics of Friction than Engine Power."
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