Four Electric Trucks Go Head To Head Towing Over The Rockies

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In some recent videos, we’ve seen Out of Spec pit a Cybertruck, a Rivian R1T, a Silverado EV, and an F-150 Lightning against each other in races across the country (final results not released yet), range to dead testing, and more. Now, the channel has given the four trucks a fairly harsh test: towing Model 3s from Denver to Grand Junction and back to Denver. This means pulling the load over the Rocky Mountains twice!

This is not only a test or range and charging speeds, but also gives us valuable information on how the vehicles do when descending down steep hills. In other videos, we’ve seen OOS test the Rivian and Cybertruck doing that, and both trucks didn’t give enough regenerative braking to control speed, leaving the trucks needing to overheat the friction brakes to safely descend mountains.

So, in other words, this is very important testing that reveals a lot about how the trucks perform in the toughest situations. (article continues after video)

Strengths the F-150 Lightning has are NACS access, a flat charging curve out to 80%, and software that’s good at compensating for towing. The Rivian has four motors and the large battery pack, and the team has a lot of experience towing with it. It also has a front charging port that’s good for towing without needing to unhook. The Silverado EV has a massive battery pack, and still predicts 300 miles of range predicted with the ~6000 lb load. The Cybertruck is another vehicle he has a lot of experience with, including another extreme towing test I summarized recently.

All trucks had 100%, and trucks were limited to 5 MPH over the speed limit. The vehicles don’t have trailer brake controllers with the U-Haul trailers, but they do have surge brakes (brakes that activate based on inertia, sometimes very annoyingly). To keep things fair, the trucks that got through some lights waited and let the trucks that got stuck at red lights get caught up on the first stretch of highway.

Kyle went ahead and held his speed all the way up the hill to the tunnel, passing ICE vehicles even without trailers because the torque made it so easy. This means a lot of energy consumption, but he’s driving the vehicle with the biggest battery by far. Getting less than a mile per kWh seemed pretty tough!

At the time of the tunnel, all of the trucks seemed to be doing pretty well, and getting similar efficiency. All of the vehicles were at about 50%, except for the Silverado that still had almost 70%. But, they were all about to face some serious regenerative braking challenges after heating up on that steep climb.

The Silverado held most of its gen through the whole steep downhill. It recouped about 4%. The Lightning added about 5%, also holding most of its regen. The Lightning did well, too. All of them figured they’d get to Glenwood Springs, even without much battery left. The Silverado estimated that it would be able to make its way all the way to Grand Junction (the other side of the Rockies and the turnaround point) with 24% left!

Sadly, the Cybertruck struggled to get good charging speeds at its first stop, requiring several unplugs and replugs. At its second stop, there was plenty of room at the Supercharger, which allowed him to charge without needing to unhook the trailer. He also got much better speed at the Rifle Supercharger because it was a faster station with no problems.

The overall average for Grand Junction for the Silverado was 1.2 miles/kWh and it handily made it to the Electrify America station in Grand Junction while everyone else was picking up charges to get as far as the turnaround point. He dropped the trailer and then found an open station, charged on the first try, and got almost the full 350 kW that the truck could get.

The Lightning arrived to charge only a bit before Kyle was about to leave in the Silverado EV. Kyle chose to go ahead and charge up full enough to go all the way back to Denver without a second charging session. This means he doesn’t have to unhook the vehicle any more times. Everyone else was in for multiple charging sessions between Grand Junction and Denver.

Sadly, temperatures dropped a lot and the snow came in making things slippery on the way back. This made Kyle have to slow down, and it was pretty clear who the vast winner was. But, for safety he had to call the rest of the trucks off and have them stay out of the Rockies until weather improved. Eventually, it did improve while the others stopped to charge, so they were able to resume.

By the end, the Silverado won, the Rivian and the Lightning performed very similarly, and the Cybertruck took the longest. Performance on regenerative braking was another big thing that set the trucks apart.

Data & Stuff

If you want some data from the trip, the team put a podcast together with all of the numbers analyzed after the trip.

In the end, the Cybertruck might have been closer to the other trucks’ performance, with the exception of the Silverado. The problem was stopping at V2 Superchargers instead of trying to optimize the route to stop only at V3 chargers.

Kyle figures that this is the first EV truck that’s really a tow vehicle in any normal sense of the word. Any EV can tow if you’re patient and slow enough, or haul small loads. But, if you’re an average person who is coming from gas or diesel, the Silverado gives a normal experience that would make most people happy.

But, the charging situation is pretty behind the Silverado, which seems to be in a whole new category of EV now. The need to unhook trailers to charge at most locations today means that towing is still a much bigger pain in the butt than gas. Even the Silverado EV will stop more often than a diesel or gas truck, and nearly all gas stations are pull-through. But, only a tiny percentage of EV stations today have pull-through layouts.

There’s still a whole lot of information in both videos that I didn’t get in my summary here. So, if you want to get a deep-level look at what trucks did like with this hard towing test, be sure to watch them both when you have some time. The podcast (second video) can even be listened to in the car!

Featured image: a screenshot from the Out of Spec Podcast video above.

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