Hybrids & Electrics

A Closer Look at Ford’s Electric F-150 Prototype Ad

Automakers want to sell cars. That’s not much of a secret. After investing thousands—and in some cases millions—of dollars into a vehicle, it only makes sense that automakers want to earn a profit. That’s how business works, whether it be in the automobile industry or a hot dog stand on a street corner. And when Ford introduces its electric F-150, it’s going to want to sell trucks.

That being said, automakers often go to great lengths in order to make a sale. Many times, it’s something new that will save consumers money in the long run, technology that makes life easier, or in some cases, completely outrageous claims.

Take Nissan for instance. In 2011, the automaker posted a video of a mid-size Nissan Frontier rushing to the aid of a helpless dune buggy that couldn’t make it up a sandy hill. The Frontier pushes the dune buggy up and over the hill in seconds. It looks incredibly impressive, but the entire video was a fake. According to the New York Times, both the dune buggy and the truck were pulled up the not-so steep hill by cables. The Federal Trade Commission charged Nissan with deceptive advertising and Nissan promised to never do it again.

But is Ford’s latest ad the same kind of stunt?

Towing a Million

Ford released a five-minute promotional video called Towing a Million about its new F-150 all-electric prototype. The video starts out with a group of men who all own F-150s meeting up in a train yard. They all seemed confused as to why they’re there. A chief engineer for Ford shows up and reveals the new F-150 all-electric prototype. “Built Ford Tough” is splashed across the side of the truck, and this ensues many comments about how literally everything in the video is “Built Ford Tough.”

The engineer explains that there are 42 trucks present that represent 42 years of Ford’s best-selling trucks. She then explains the purpose of all the men being present. They’re going to watch as she pulls 10 double-decker freight cars for 1,000 feet using only the F-150. The combined weight is well over one million pounds. According to the engineer, “No other truck has ever done it.”

At this point, anyone watching the video has to question if the new F-150 prototype can do it, but we’ll save that for later.

The guys obviously question if this is possible, but the engineer has them jump in a separate truck to watch. The freight cars are hooked up and the truck begins inching forward. One of the men looks at the speedometer and says they’re moving at a speed of five mph. At the bottom of the screen is written, “Professional Driver. Closed Course. Do Not Attempt.”

Everyone is naturally in awe when the F-150 crosses the finish line, but that’s not the end of the video. There’s more. All 42 trucks were loaded into the freight car, bringing the weight to a grand total of 1.25 million pounds.

And if you guessed that the F-150 prototype pulls that as well, you guessed right. The moment really comes together with dramatic aerial shots and awe-inspiring music playing in the background.

Is it possible?

Let’s check a few facts. Anyone who’s ever been to see an action movie knows how easily such a stunt could be faked on video. That’s a given. So let’s dig a little deeper.

According to Ford’s own website, the 2019 F-150 can only tow up to 13,200 lbs. That’s impressive, and U.S. News reports that it’s got the highest towing capability in its class. But 13,200 lbs is a far cry from 1,250,000 lbs. That’s a difference of 1,236,800 lbs. Technology is advancing rapidly, but is it really advancing that quickly?

How Stuff Works reports, “By basing calculations on unrealistic situations and using whatever criteria they want, manufacturers can easily exaggerate towing capacity. This makes it increasingly difficult for consumers to compare truck towing performance.” It’s a valid point that should be considered when viewing Towing a Million.

On the other hand, Ford attributes the fact that the F-150 prototype can perform such wonders due to its all-electric powertrain, which could easily be able to tow far more than a typical truck with a gas engine. In an interview with Fortune, former Tesla battery engineer Dustin Grace explains that electric motors produce more torque at lower speeds than your average gas engine. When speed becomes a factor, this obviously changes, but considering the F-150 in the video was only going 5 mph, it’s completely reasonable to expect that it could tow that much weight. Especially when you consider the train rolls on wheels and doesn’t have to be dragged on the ground.

Based on what we’ve seen, it doesn’t look like Ford faked this ad the way Nissan reportedly did. More importantly, how close will the production version’s powertrain be to the one in this prototype? If the electric F-150 ends up with a Super Duty-beating tow rating, we’ll be seriously impressed.