Home » How To Avoid Ending Up In A Viral Video About Your Tesla Cybertruck Getting Stuck In The Snow

How To Avoid Ending Up In A Viral Video About Your Tesla Cybertruck Getting Stuck In The Snow

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The polarizing Tesla Cybertruck is a lightning rod for both praise and criticism, so if anything happens to one, the world is going to have something to say. Case in point: One got into a crash, and we wrote the first article. Why? Because people care for some reason.

Second case in point: Some Cybertrucks have been having some issues navigating deep snow, with some needing to be towed out of a stuck situation. Does this mean the Cybertruck has a “snow problem”? Not necessarily. But that’s a legitimate question that folks are asking, and because I am but a zookeeper and this media machine is a beast that needs to be fed, here’s my take on all this silliness.

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First off, check out all the blogs about the Tesla Cybertruck getting stuck in snow:

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They’re referencing these two viral videos:

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And look at this CNBC report wherein experts, including Jason Cammisa, were brought in to answer if the Tesla Cybertruck “has a snow problem.” No, I’m not kidding;

Jason’s response in the above video is, of course, right. People are laughing at the Cybertruck getting stuck because the truck is the hottest new thing out there and it looks tough. How can something that looks this beefy falter? It’s like The Rock getting beaten up by a child.

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Beyond the fact that the Cybertruck is a news magnet, I think what we’re seeing is in some ways a reality check for folks who bought into stratospherically absurd marketing that painted the Cybertruck as unstoppable. The thing is quasi-bulletproof and very hard to dent, it can accelerate faster than supercars, it’s insanely safe in crash tests, and it’s got more power and ground clearance than damn near any other truck out there. Elon Musk called the vehicle “apocalypse-proof” at the launch event, Joe Rogan shot arrows at the thing, and I could go on and on.

In the eyes of the public, the Cybertruck is the toughest, most unstoppable machine on the planet. And while much of that perception was Musk and Tesla’s doing, some of that was just how people wanted to interpret what the truck actually was. The title of the YouTube video, “Elon Explains Why the Cybertruck Is the Best Off-Road Vehicle,” is a good example. Musk didn’t say it’s the best off-road vehicle, though he does explain some very basic concepts that were employed on many vehicles well before the Cybertruck, making the Tesla seem a bit more innovative than it really is:

As a result of these kinds of expectations, earlier this year a video of the Cybertruck having a bit of a hard time getting up a grade at a California off-road course caused quite a stir:

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This even led Ford’s CEO Jim Farley to make a snarky tweet, which led me to write the story “Ford CEO Takes Shot At Tesla Cybertruck With Off-Road Video Of F-150 Lightning, Which Is Going To Get Its Ass Kicked,” because I think that off-road clip was overblown just as these “Cybertruck getting stuck in snow” videos are overblown.

But folks overblowing when a vehicle doesn’t meet expectations happens all the time. People get their hopes up, often because of marketing; the reality is that marketing is a double-edged sword. I talked about this a bit when I reviewed the Ford Bronco Sport, a little off-road vehicle whose four-wheel drive system overheated while attempting to traverse a fairly modest gravel off-road incline. I found this disappointing, just as some find these videos of the Cybertruck stuck in snow and struggling to get up an off-road incline to be disappointing — and the reason why we felt this way has to do with expectations:

Unfortunately, there is no commonly-used equivalent test regimen when it comes to “certifying” that a vehicle offers something like “unrelenting Bronco capability.” These marketing terms are subjective, and that means Ford doesn’t owe any particular performance under any particular driving conditions. That hill climb that caused the journalist’s Outer Banks Bronco Sport to overheat? Ford never promised that the vehicle could handle that grade without derate. That sand dune that Hall was driving? Ford never promised that the vehicle can be hooned for 15 minutes in ~80 degree weather without derating.

Ultimately, what matters is what the customer thinks. So long as the vehicle’s capability meets or exceeds the customer’s expectation of what the Bronco Sport should be able to do, then there is no problem. We’ll have to keep an eye out on loose-terrain off-roading reviews from customers, and on comparison tests to show how the Bronco Sport stacks up against the competitive set. And we’ll have to keep in mind how drive modes and driver behavior factors into the vehicle’s performance.

Should I have been disappointed in the Bronco Sport having issues getting up that hill? Honestly, probably not. The vehicle is meant for light off-road duty; it wasn’t clear to me based on the marketing, but ultimately, folks who buy the thing tend to be happy with its capability. Should people be upset with the Cybertruck getting stuck in snow? No; even if they bought into the marketing, there’s some level due-diligence everyone who drives on America’s roadways needs to pay. The American consumer needs to realize that performance in snow is hugely affected by tire compound, so the Tesla Cybertruck’s all-terrains are a huge limiting factor:

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Just look at this video to see how much of a difference there can be between an all-terrain tire’s grip in snow and ice and a dedicated winter tire’s grip in snow and ice, and this video’s a good one, too:

All-terrain tires may look badass, but they’re not great snow tires unless they’re specifically built with snow in mind (many aren’t). Without comparing the Cybertruck to another vehicle with the same tires, there’s only so much analysis we can do.

With all that said, I do think that some of the Cybertruck’s atributes make it a bit less than ideal for driving in snow. For one, it’s heavy; but lots of trucks are heavy. Two, I remain unconvinced that its traction control system is fully optimized for all conditions. I obviously need to drive the truck first, but when I reviewed the Rivian R1T — also a multi-motor electric truck that doesn’t lock all four of its tires’ angular velocities together (it’s not clear if any of the stuck Cybertrucks came with a locker) — I noticed that not having the tires locked together meant the reactive traction control system led to quite a bit of tire flaring, which you don’t want. From my review:

Let’s again say you’re climbing [a] hill with the pedal depressed a certain amount. A given amount of current is being sent to the wheels, producing the requisite wheel torque to ascend the grade at 2 MPH.

Now let’s say the passenger’s side tire loses all grip; what happens? Well, the wheel torque there goes to zero, and the wheel slips until the vehicle can pull current from that motor [and clamp the brake]; does the wheel torque at the other three wheels instantly increase like it does with a fully-locked ICE in order to maintain a steady vehicle speed? Not instantly. The vehicle’s electronics have to quickly send more current to the other motors with grip to keep the vehicle moving at a given rate.

How much current do you send each wheel? What if you send too much current to a wheel that doesn’t have quite enough grip, causing wheel-spin? As for the wheel without grip; should it keep spinning at a rate that corresponds with vehicle speed so that it doesn’t have to accelerate once it does get grip? If so, how do you know what the vehicle speed is?

It’s really complicated.

The truth is that designing an EV all-wheel drive system to perform well off-road is far more complicated than even I realize. You’ve got motors that aren’t connected trying to keep the same tangential speed despite varying traction conditions, and there’s just a ton of torque on tap so you have to be careful not to spin those motors up because if they get grip, things could get real. Looking at the videos of the Cybertrucks, I definitely don’t think those wheels are receiving torque at the most optimal times, but it’s worth noting, this could be user error. Maybe the trucks are in the wrong modes?

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With good tires, the Cybertruck’s copious ground clearance, and an even remotely acceptable traction control system, the Cybertruck should be pretty damn good in snow, despite its weight. Until we see some thorough testing, folks need to chill.

And anyone who’s worried about ending up on the internet with a Cybertruck: 1. Buy winter tires 2. Understand road conditions (some are saying that many Cybertruck drivers are new to pickups, and are therefore less than experienced when it comes to treacherous terrain; that may play a role, sure). And 3. Relax; no matter what you do, you’ll probably end up in a viral video, anyway. You drive a Cybertruck.

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Santiago Iglesias
Santiago Iglesias
5 months ago

That snowy driveway climb was pretty pathetic. Any real OEM would have required a snow grade climb as a pass/fail test of traction control. Also, EVs are hard because once you break traction, the wheel can go basically to vmax. In a gas car, it can only go so high based on whatever gear you’re in. On the plus side though, EV motors should react way faster than a gas engine. I don’t know if tesla itself is doing the traction control or if the ABS supplier is, but I’m guessing it’s tesla because this wouldn’t be acceptable performance from a major supplier

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