Home » Tesla’s Claim That Cybertruck Can Pull “Near Infinite Mass” Is Hilarious Bullshit

Tesla’s Claim That Cybertruck Can Pull “Near Infinite Mass” Is Hilarious Bullshit

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At this moment in time, the Tesla Cybertruck is a machine that is mostly hype. I’m not saying it’ll never actually get produced or anything like that, but I am saying that most of the general concept of what a Cybertruck is about 75% hype at the moment. Sure, there’s some plans and prototypes and massive amounts of pre-orders, but most Cybertrucks do their driving in the fevered imaginations of hardcore Tesla fans. Tesla’s own website for the Cybertruck certainly contributes to this, with plenty of specs and numbers that have yet to be verified, but there’s one claim on there that’s worth pointing out, because it’s so incredibly absurd. You know it’s good because it uses the phrase “near infinite mass.” What? What does this even mean? Let’s dig into this madness, just a bit.

I should also note I’m by no means the only one to raise an eyebrow at this; people on sites like Twitter and Reddit have noted it for years, but it only caught my eye recently. And now I can’t stop thinking about it. Here’s what it says, specifically:

RUGGED STRENGTH

With the ability to pull near infinite mass and a towing capability of over 14,000 pounds, Cybertruck can perform in almost any extreme situation with ease.

 

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So, the Cybertruck can pull “near infinite mass?” What the fuck does that even mean, “near infinite.” Infinite is, well, infinite! There’s no beginning or end, so how can anything be “near?” Five pounds is just as close to infinite pounds as 500,000 pounds is. If you don’t believe me, you’re welcome to test it yourself, and try counting from 5 to infinity and then 500,000 to infinity and tell me which one gets you there quicker. I’m not going to wait up for you, though.

That idiocy aside, what do they mean, exactly, by “pull?” I suppose they’re implying that the Cybertruck can pull really, really massive things, like trains or airplanes or spaceships, but you know what? Lots of trucks can. In fact, those three specific things I mentioned have all been done by other trucks, because this is a well-known PR stunt:

Look, a train:

Look, a plane (a freaking Mini is doing this one):

Look, a spaceship:

Many, many vehicles are capable of pulling extremely heavy things slowly over flat, smooth surfaces. There’s whole classes of quite small vehicles that do just this, as a job, every day, like airport tugs.

Our very own engineer-in-cheese David Tracy even wrote about these sorts of pulling stunts a few years back, where he noted that while many vehicles can do these sorts of performative towing feats, they’re not really a useful, real-world test of anything. There’s a standard for what is, though, and it’s the SAE J2807  test that actually takes into account real-world criteria like overheating and handling and braking performance.

The sort of pull that Tesla seems to be referring to with the Cybertruck’s absurd claim must be what’s known as a drawbar pull, which is the amount of horizontal force available to a vehicle at the drawbar for accelerating or pulling a load. There’s a formula for computing it, even:

Drawbar pull = [motor torque] x [gear reduction] /[radius of drive wheel] – [rolling resistance]

I suppose once we actually know what the Cybertuck’s stats are for all these things, we could compute what its drawbar pull would be. I’m willing to bet good, damp money that it’s not going to be anywhere close to “near infinite mass,” though. So if you were planning to tow, say, Jupiter closer to your backyard because it would look awesome in the sky when you had cookouts, I think you’re out of luck.

None of this, of course, is news, because it’s just physics. What is worth noting is the language Tesla is using here, and how it’s indicative of a larger pattern. Just choosing to use the phrase “near infinite mass,” knowing that it’s inherently meaningless but was chosen because someone at Tesla thought it sounded badass or whatever should be a bit of a warning: This is a vehicle that may turn out to be more focused on perception and image than actual utility.

“Near infinite mass” is a sort of insulting phrase to use, because it treats the potential customer as a rube who gets easily dazzled by science-sounding hyperbolic words, and that’s all that whomever wrote this may care about. It crumbles almost immediately under even the most mild of scrutiny, and while all carmakers (especially for trucks) like to play up their vehicles abilities, sometimes with a bit of deliberate obfuscation, we should have some limits about what is just clearly bullshit.

And “near infinite” being used in any context describing a truck’s capabilities is very much bullshit. Unless they’re talking about the Cybertruck’s near infinite ability to provoke eye-rolling. That I’d believe.

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104 Responses

  1. It’s simple. The Cybertruck can pull “near infinite” mass in much the same way as Musk can pull “near infinite” BS out of his ass and present it to the public as if it was the truth.

  2. The blurb says the Cybertruck can PULL near-infinite mass. It does not say that the truck can MOVE said near-infinite mass.

    I can pull the near-infinite mass (at least, relative to mine) of, say, The Pentagon, or a mountain. Doesn’t mean it’s going anywhere, though.

  3. It’s technically true but not in any useful way. Well it’s up to the user to find a way of procuring the near infinite mass, attaching a suitable teacher to it, and finding another infinitely massive object to rest the truck on, and I guess a way of getting infinite traction. An eternity and a micometer to measure acceleration.

    Archimedes said, “Give me a firm place to stand and a lever and I can move the Earth.” Well he said it in Greek, and he wasn’t advertising trucks.

  4. IIRC, and I was a horrible physics student, even absent friction or gravity, the inertia of an object is still equal to it’s mass. Nothing can pull “near-infinite” mass. Which is a good thing, because if you manage to get it moving, nothing’s going to be able to stop it, either.

    1. Growing up on a farm you would occasionally hear about someone pulling a highway trailer loaded with thirty tons of tomatoes with a farm tractor. Getting the thing up to 10pm up through 36 gears is easy. Stoping it, kind of a shitshow.

  5. “‘Near infinite mass’ is a sort of insulting phrase to use, because it treats the potential customer as a rube who gets easily dazzled by science-sounding hyperbolic words.”

    Not to make the obvious joke, but…. they’re advertising to people who are seriously considering the Cybertruck after everything that’s happened since it’s announcement. It’s exactly what I expect Tesla stans to start parroting to anyone who dare criticize their beloved corpo.

  6. I’ve run into this phenomenon once or twice in my career while working with people who have a second-hand grasp of physics.

    With P=τω, an ideal motor with finite power can produce infinite torque at infinitessimal rotational speed. This, of course, ignores amperage limits and rotor shear strength, but this blurb wasn’t written by an engineer. It was written by a marketing guy who asked an engineer to explain in five minutes how a motor works.

    1. “Any car can pull a near infinite mass, absent friction.”

      I was thinking the same thing, except how would a car pull anything without friction. The whole drive mechanism of automobiles relies on the wheels gripping a surface. Maybe if you modified the car with a bottle rocket, then it would work. By that reasoning, my stapler would be just as effective.

  7. Somehow this is reminiscient of Arthur Ganson’s kinetic sculpture featuring a motor with 12 pairs of gears leading up to a final speed reduction of (1/50) to the 12th power with the final gear embedded in concrete since it will take 2 trillion years for said gear to complete one full revolution:
    https://www.arthurganson.com/concrete-1

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