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Toyota towed a 300,000-pound space shuttle with a Tundra, and Elon Musk said his Tesla pickup will be able to tow 300,000 pounds. Ford Motor Co. says it's upped the ante by towing 1.25-million pounds with a prototype of its fully electric F-150.

The pickup won't be on sale for at least a few years, and the production models won't likely tow a million pounds, according to F-150 chief engineer Linda Zhang. But Ford wanted to show off what it could be capable of as it readies to electrify one of its most storied nameplates.

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Linda Zhang, chief engineer of the Ford F-150, shows the capability of a prototype all-electric F-150 by towing 10 double-decker rail cars full of F-150s The Detroit News

"We're really just trying to test how extreme we could get it," Zhang said. "This is really the tough truck testing."

Ford has been testing prototype electric F-150s around southeast Michigan for months. The automaker is expected to debut the first hybrid F-150 next year. Later this year it is expected to show its first-ever battery-electric crossover, which Executive Chairman Bill Ford has said will "go like hell."

But the electrified F-150s have been hard sells. Diehard truck fans are hesitant to believe an electrified powertrain could deliver anywhere near the performance or power of the gas- or diesel-engine trucks that built the Ford dynasty. 

So Zhang headed for a train yard at an undisclosed location in North America to show how much torque an electric powertrain can generate. The prototype pickup towed 10 double-decker rail cars with 42 2019 F-150s inside. That totaled roughly 1.25-million pounds. 

"Truck owners have been very skeptical of the fact that we were able to do this," Zhang said. "We expect to deliver that level of built Ford tough. We've got them in mind."

Zhang wouldn't specify any real-world targets for the battery-electric truck other than to say it will be held to the same standards as the gas-powered F-150s. Ford jostles with General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to claims "bests" anywhere it can in the pickup category. 

Truck buyers in recent years have diversified as automakers offer increasingly more plush and expensive models of what was once a work vehicle. But as Ford introduces new models and iterations of the F-Series, officials always say truck buyers want to at least know their truck can tow, haul and pull almost anything they might need to tow, haul or pull. 

Zhang said the train yard demonstration was meant to show that Ford isn't going to sacrifice power in its battery-powered models, she said.

"We're the leaders in trucks, and we're going to continue leading," she said. "This is one of the ways we're going to do that. We're serious about electrification."

ithibodeau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau

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