An Electric Pickup Truck Really Could Pull a Freight Train—Here’s How

An Electric Pickup Truck Really Could Pull a Freight Train—Here's How


In a new stunt, a Ford crew hitched an all-electric powered F-150 pickup truck to a freight prepare loaded with 42 a lot more F-150s. Then a driver hit the throttle, and the pickup truck towed the 1.3 million-pound coach. This raises some interesting questions. How difficult is it for a truck to pull a teach? Is that even possible? Could a usual truck do this? Of course it’s an extraordinary feat—but the serious restricting variable is friction.

Let us get started with a more idealized circumstance. That is what we do in physics—when some thing is possibly complex, we make the circumstance significantly less sophisticated to make positive we are on the appropriate observe.

The Case With No Friction

So, what would it just take to pull a giant educate in the scenario of zero friction? The answer is that any tiny power would transfer the coach. Even an ant could shift it. Certainly, this is true—it just appears extremely hard because you’ve by no means encountered a situ­ation with zero friction. Right here is a force diagram for a very small object pulling a enormous object with no friction. I am likely to use boxes to stand for the objects, but if you squint actual tough you can make that box glance like an ant.

Rhett Allain

That diagram may search challenging, but it truly is not much too negative. Enable me go above all the aspects. The initially point that might appear puzzling are individuals arrows about some of the symbols. You do not seriously want to know about individuals, but that usually means those portions are vectors. Yes, power is a vector. That implies that pulling to the remaining on an item is not the similar as pulling to the proper. Direction issues with forces, and forces are vectors.

Future, let us appear at those people two forces pulling down on block A and block B. These are the gravitational forces because of to the blocks’ interaction with Earth this is also named “pounds.” The gravitational force depends on the mass of the item and the gravitational discipline (g), which has a magnitude of about 9.8 newtons per kilogram. This indicates that additional huge objects have a increased weight. Oh, but you realized that—you just could possibly not have recognized why you knew it. So item B has significantly a lot more mass, and it has a much better excess weight.

The upward-pushing power labeled N is identified as the usual power. This is a pressure concerning the object and the floor. If this ended up a coach on a railroad observe, the normal pressure would be from the rails pushing up on the practice and blocking it from falling as a result of the floor. It is identified as a “typical” drive simply because this pressure is generally perpendicular to the surface—remember that in geometry “standard” signifies at a suitable angle. Due to the fact item B has a substantially higher bodyweight, it also has a significantly greater ordinary pressure. It has to so that it would not slide by way of the tracks. This usual force will develop into considerably additional essential when we include friction.

What about that “T” power? That is the tension force from the rope that connects item A and B. I included the subscript A-B for “A pulling on B” and B-A for “B pulling on A.” In fact, these two forces are just a person conversation. Certainly, forces come in pairs. If you drive on the wall with your hand, the wall pushes back again on you with a drive of the exact same magnitude. Forces are often an interaction in between two objects. No matter what power item A exerts on B, the very same pressure is pushing back again on A.

Now we are ready to communicate about the character of forces. It’s very frequent to say that a power helps make items shift. Okay, that is not seriously real. A force (basically a internet power) adjustments the motion of an object. So, if that item is at rest then a web force will improve its movement from at relaxation to relocating. If an item is presently going, you will not even require a internet force. It will go along at a consistent velocity without having a power. I know this doesn’t normally match up with the way individuals assume. The problem is that there is often a frictional force—a pressure that is straightforward to pretend like it is really not there. But it is certainly there.

1 past issue just before acquiring into friction. Look again at the pressure diagrams for the two objects. For the heavier item (B), there is a net force pulling to the remaining to make that object enhance in velocity. That’s good. But what about item A? For that a person, there wants to be a greater power pulling to the still left to get over that rigidity force pulling to the proper. I referred to as this power a “thrust,” since in my head there is a rocket on that item. I like rockets.

Pulling With Friction

Again to the F-150 pulling a train. I nevertheless have a small object (the truck) and a substantial object (the coach). But in this case there is just not a rocket on the truck (maybe Ford will arrive out with a rocket truck before long). The force pulling the truck to the left is the frictional power involving the tires and the street. With no this frictional force, the truck could not even accelerate. Friction is basically rather intricate. It really is an conversation amongst the floor atoms in a person object (the tires of the truck) and the area atoms in one more item (the floor). That is mad. Nevertheless, we can make a rather easy model for the magnitude of this frictional force that is effective in most situations (but not all instances).

In this simple friction model, the magnitude of this frictional pressure depends on the types of surfaces interacting (rubber and asphalt—or regardless of what) and the magnitude of the normal force. Indeed, this is exactly where the ordinary pressure gets essential. As an equation, I can create the maximum frictional power as the following:

Rhett Allain

What the heck is that μs issue? That is the coefficient of static friction. It’s a price (commonly considerably less than 1) that describes how “frictiony” two surfaces are. If you rub fabric on a metal area, the coefficient of friction would be rather low—maybe about .2. The coefficient of static friction for a tire on a road can be as substantial as about .7.

On the other hand, the really crucial portion of the frictional force is the dependence on the regular force. A small item (small mass) would have a scaled-down gravitational force, which means it would have a smaller usual power. A smaller standard force indicates there would be a lesser frictional force. But let us deal with the pressure diagram for a compact item pulling a weighty object.

Rhett Allain

What’s unique in this diagram? Very first, there is not a rocket (boo). Rather, there is a frictional drive pulling on the truck to the left. For the train (object B), a frictional drive is pulling to the correct. Considering the fact that both equally objects have the exact same tension power pulling on them (but in reverse instructions), the frictional force on the truck must be greater than the frictional pressure on the coach. But hold out! The frictional power depends on the mass, proper? Yup. The only way for this to work is for the coefficient of friction amongst the truck tires and the ground to be significantly increased than the coefficient for the prepare wheels and the rail.

Alright, I have to have to talk about some other friction stuff so I will not get in difficulties. The friction between the truck tires and the ground is without a doubt static friction. We have static friction when two surfaces are stationary with respect to every single other. Even though a tire is rolling, the contact place involving the wheel and floor is stationary. For the teach, this would technically be kinetic friction, which transpires when two surfaces go relative to just about every other. This happens in the axle of the teach wheels. This provides a resistive force to the rolling of the wheel which attempts to “slide” on the rail and that conversation is static friction. I know that is a lot, but I feel better obtaining that off my chest.

Now for a rapid calculation. What values of the coefficient of friction will get this to get the job done? I you should not know the mass of an electric Ford F-150, but a typical one can be about 7,000 lbs . (3,175 kilograms). Let’s just go big here. I am likely to use a vehicle mass of 4,000 kg. What about the train loaded up with even far more F-150s? That has a mass of 1,270,888 kilos or 576,465 kg. The frictional drive on the F-150 has to be just a tiny bit increased than the frictional power on the prepare. Let us established them equal to every single other. That usually means I get the adhering to (utilizing the basic design for friction):

Rhett Allain

If I place in a truck coefficient of friction of .7 and the masses of each the truck and the educate, then the coefficient of friction among the prepare and the rails would have to be as very low as .0049. Of course, which is small. But seriously, trains require to have minimal friction. That’s what makes them so magnificent and ready to transport huge amounts of cargo in excess of terrific distances. But could any truck do this prepare pull? Dependent on this calculation, it’s all about the mass of the pulling car or truck and the friction involving the tires and ground. So just about any truck could do this.

Oh, what about torque and energy and things like that for the electric powered F-150? Of course, you will need that as well. But if you really don’t have friction, you do not have something. Also, right here is one particular of my preferred demos. Even a child can shift a weighty car. Listed here is my daughter (when she was only 7) pulling the family members motor vehicle. If you get very low enough friction you can get something to shift.


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