The numbers don’t lie, though towing a car everywhere isn’t exactly practical.
There’s quite of math and science happening in this interesting new video from Engineering Explained, but then we’ve come to expect nothing less from the epic YouTube channel. We’ll try not to go too far down the mathematics rabbit hole here, but to make a complicated story very simple, this test proves a first-gen Ford F-150 Raptor is more efficient when towing a Tesla Model 3 than just driving on its own.
Since a claim like that simply can’t be left without some kind of explanation, here’s a summary. Electric cars like the Tesla Model 3 use regenerative braking to help recharge the battery pack. As such, simply lifting off the throttle produces electricity while slowing the car. Hooked to a truck – in this case a notoriously fuel-hungry V8-powered F-150 Raptor – the Tesla never slows down.
Over the course of a 1.4-kilometer (0.9-mile) slow-speed lap tethered to the Ford, the Model 3 received a 2 percent charge while expending no energy. That was enough for the Model 3 to drive slightly more than a single lap at high speed. Wouldn’t it be an apples-to-apples comparison for the Tesla to do a low-speed lap? Hold your thoughts on that, because we’ll address it in a bit.
Gallery: Tesla F-150 Raptor Efficiency Experiment
Armed with that info, a few more test laps were conducted to determine the baseline efficiency for each vehicle over an identical distance at identical speeds. The Tesla’s electric range was converted to an equivalent mpg readout of 108, basically 10 times better than the Raptor’s 10.7 mpg. Furthermore, while towing the Tesla, the Raptor only returned 3.4 mpg.
Here’s where it gets a bit tedious in the math department, so we’ll keep it real simple. Take those mpg numbers, combine them with the amount of charge the Model 3 got while being towed, mix them in a blender and do the hokey pokey, and you get an efficiency rating of 18.1 mpg. Mind you, that’s a combined rating while the Raptor is towing the Tesla, where the Tesla is gaining electricity as the truck burns fuel. And yes, that’s significantly better than the Raptor by itself. Make sense?
If your brain is still jelly on this (we had trouble ourselves) here’s an alternative explanation. Despite the Raptor’s drop in fuel economy from towing the Tesla, you could drive further overall if you towed the Tesla (charging its empty battery in the process) and then drove the Tesla when the Raptor ran out of gas, then if you just drove the Raptor by itself. In fact, the numbers suggest you could go a lot further.
Speaking of which, that hot lap we mentioned previously where the Model 3 used its captured electric charge in just over a lap? Had the pace been at slower speeds similar to those used during towing, the Tesla could’ve done over five laps, all from the charge gained on a single towed lap. Mind blown yet?
Obviously it’s not practical or particularly safe to just tow a Tesla everywhere, but it does give a different perspective on electric power versus internal-combustion engines. It also gives us some wicked awesome trivia to regale our car friends with at the pub.