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Elon Musk's Tesla Cybertruck claims undone by engineer in YouTube video

Get ready for a load of head-scratching maths

When Elon Musk launched the Cybertruck in November last year, the Tesla CEO claimed his new the electric pick-up truck is faster than a Porsche 911 over the standing quarter-mile — even when towing another Porsche 911. He even showed a video that he said proved it. Now the veracity of that film has been undone by an eagle-eyed engineer and his thorough mathematics.

YouTuber Jason Fenske, who runs a channel called “Engineering Explained”, has analysed the video in granular detail and seems to have comprehensively proved that — going on all existing data — there’s no way the Cybertruck could beat even the slowest Porsche 911 model while towing another 911 over that distance.

How did Musk make it look like the reverse is true? Because the video doesn’t show a quarter-mile race, Fenske shows; rather, it was run over half that distance: an eighth of a mile.

Doing the maths

Fenske, who describes himself on his channel with almost 3.7 million subscribers as a “graduated mechanical engineer”, simply “does the math”, as the Americans would say, on the video.

Theorising that the slowest 911 model, the 380bhp Carrera T, was picked, Fenske explains that the Porsche can be seen “lurching” in the video as it switches gears, indicating it’s a manual.

And as the only 380bhp 911 that can be specified with a manual gearbox is the T, it seems logical that this car is the one which Tesla would pick to sit behind the Cybertruck — especially as it’s also the lightest 911 model in the current range, at 1,470kg, meaning it gives the towing Tesla the minimum amount of weight to pull.

Porsche is a manufacturer widely known to be conservative with its official performance and power figures, meaning that its cars are often faster in the real world when they’re officially bench-tested by motoring outlets using proper timing gear.

That said, Fenske uses Porsche’s own quoted 12.2-second time for the 911 T and some excellent mathematical work to show that the Tesla Cybertruck towing the 911 would be behind the car running on its own.

However, he goes on to say that it would only be marginally behind the 911 at the quarter-mile mark, which — to Tesla’s credit — is still an incredible feat for a 3.1-tonne truck towing a 1.5-tonne car on a trailer with its own unspecified weight added to the rig’s mix.

Drag race not as long as it seems

He also proves that the video race concludes at the eighth-mile stage, by showing that the “bleachers” — bench seats — at the venue end halfway down the quarter-mile drag strip of Sacramento Raceway Park, where the Tesla stunt was filmed.

Fenske’s eighth-mile claim was later verified by a Tesla engineer contacting him on X (formerly Twitter) to say that the trailer’s tyres were only rated to 80mph, and that the Tesla was hitting 88mph at the eighth-mile stage, so any further distance was vetoed on the grounds of safety.

Said engineer did also add, however, that the filmed eighth-mile run at around 8.25 seconds was not the Cybertruck’s fastest of the day. It was used because it had the most dramatic ending as the two competing vehicles crossed the line — and in fact, the fastest time the Tesla recorded was 7.8 seconds.

Despite this, Fenske still maintained that even then, it would not be quicker than the 911 through the quarter-mile mark.

Cybertruck is really quick when towing… if that still matters

The whole debate, which has blown up on social media in the aftermath with both supporters and detractors of Tesla getting involved, overshadows the fact that while Musk’s claims about the quarter mile have been disproved, the video was clearly not “faked” and the Cybertruck’s enormous performance does make it a formidably fast machine — even when towing significantly heavy loads behind it.

However, the way Tesla appears to have represented the achievement is being seen as misleading at best.

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