Tesla CEO Elon Musk has hinted for months that his new pickup truck will look like nothing we have never seen before, from this brand or any other.
The reveal of the angular, faceted, clipped, cropped, and a generally otherworldly pickup truck in Los Angeles startled those in attendance, the media and Twitter.
Some thought it was a joke, a bit of Muskian ribbing while riffing on the Blade Runner-vibe he had teased previously, all to simply fake us out before the real pickup truck rolled out.
Alas, the Cybertruck shown onstage last night was the real deal, not a movie prop or a video game homage. So here’s what you need to know about this curious new automotive marvel.
1. Yes, It’s a Pickup Truck
You wouldn’t know it from really any angle, but Cybertruck is indeed a pickup, complete with a 6.5-foot long, 100-cubic-foot capacity cargo bed and a six-passenger crew-cab. It’s 231 inches long, which is comparable to other large pickups. The cargo part wasn’t really explored a great deal during the reveal last night, but it was shown when they drove an electric ATV onboard, and then again during the brief media drives outside.
Overall, little is known about how the bed functions and what cool tricks the engineers might have inserted. Beyond that, Cybertruck is certainly not a conventional pickup truck in any real visual sense, but that’s precisely what Musk is going for, obviously.
2. It Has Specs!
Similarly, not a great deal was revealed about Cybertruck’s broader engineering, beyond some general details. It will come with 1, 2, or 3 electric motors, including rear-drive and all-wheel-drive configurations. It’ll reach 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, tow up to 7,500 pounds, and carry 3,500 pounds in its base guise. The two-motor variant will reach 60 in 4.5 seconds and tow 10,000 pounds, and the three-motor model will hit 60 in 2.9 seconds and pull 14,000 pounds. Range will vary from 250 to 500 miles. Pricing will range from $39,900 to $69,900. All models will have an adaptive air suspension for self-leveling and ride-height adjustment, up to 16 inches. The interior is roomy and features Tesla’s signature central touchpad, in this case a 17-inched.
3. It’ll Go Off-Road
Musk claimed that the truck’s air suspension, which will give it 16 inches of ground clearance, coupled with its low front and rear overhangs will give it the best approach and departure angles (35 and 28 degrees, respectively) in its class. He didn’t mention breakover angle, which is likely not going to be terrific given the lengthy distance between the front and rear axles. Nor did he delve into its other offroad handling qualities, such as suspension travel (separate from ride height), suspension design, or fording depth, though he did say it’ll be able to run the Baja 1000 race. That’s likely a dubious claim, given that race’s extreme nature and need for lightness and a properly engineered chassis and suspension. It may survive, but it’s not going to win anything.
4. It’s Bulletproof
Musk claimed that the pickup was bulletproof—specifically, resistant to 9mm ammunition, common rounds that can be fired from handguns or machine guns—thanks to the 3-mm-thick, “ultra-hard, cold-rolled stainless-steel alloy” used in the exoskeleton, and which they developed initially for SpaceX’s Starship rocket. Tesla design chief Franz Von Holzhausen took a sledgehammer to the door with no effect. That’ll make mall-parking much less stressful, I suppose?
The glass is armored, too. Though two on-stage demonstration of the window’s strength went wrong—they broke when Von Holzhausen slung a big ball bearing at them—other demos did validate the glass strength, and the on-stage window break isn’t necessarily damning. After all, bullet-proof windows also shatter when struck by shots, but they don’t allow actual penetration.
That said, to bill a consumer production vehicle as “bulletproof” without actual professional certification of said claim is a bit reckless, given that plenty of other ammunition types will make it clean through the Cybertruck’s hide and glass. One also hopes that this perk comes as a natural benefit of the truck’s construction, and not an actively pursued quality. The biowarfare resistance touted in the Model X SUV was weird enough—though probably more useful in some cases—but this is a pretty dystopian flex, to be honest.
5. It’s Very Heavy
In the same vein, that thick glass and thick stainless steel will also make the truck extraordinarily heavy, though the weight wasn’t disclosed last night. This is, of course, antithetical to one of the core tenets of electrification: Lightness. Regardless of whether your power source is an onboard battery or a 25-gallon fuel tank, moving a lot of weight consumes a lot of power. Fold in the already stout battery pack into its overall mass, and you have a beastly ride. The electric powertrain will overcome that feeling quite a bit, sure, but it ultimately comes at the expense of range and off-roadability.
Perhaps this will make more sense once we better understand the team’s motivations and the strategies behind some of its decisions, but when you consider what they could have done with a lighter strategy better range, greater usability, less bulk it feels disappointing. The Cybertruck will be a sensational ally in a post-apocalypse hellscape, assuming the Supercharger network still functions, but as a daily driver?
6. It’s Design Is…Divisive
While the Cybertruck is daring and dramatic, it’s neither a particularly consumer-friendly product nor an entirely functional and capable pickup truck. The visual aesthetic will be a sticking point for many after all, not everyone is going to want to spend every waking moment defending their decision to purchase the truck to every curious onlookers.
Furthermore, there may not be enough early adopters and Tesla fanatics in the world to sustain an entire product line of this nature. The company’s board of directors are notoriously hamstrung when it comes to guiding Tesla’s projects, though—Elon does what Elon’s going to do. This one’s on him entirely.
7. The Final Product Could Be Less Than Advertised
In the past, Tesla products have hit the streets more or less in line with the prototype reveals, but this program feels a bit different from previous efforts. It’s possible that the final packaging will be a bit friendlier, including actual body-color options instead of the stainless steel exoskeleton, which if you visualize some helps give the car a more welcoming aesthetic. (Not that there’s anything wrong with stainless steel—it’s just a highly industrial look.)
8. It’s More Blade Runner Than You Might Realize
In Ridley Scott’s 1982 Blade Runner, Rick Deckard (played by Harrison Ford) must hunt down rogue replicants. The film takes place in the climate-induced apocalypse of Los Angeles in November 2019 (coincidence?). Last night’s revealed even kicked things off with a hologram that introduced the Cybertruck and Blade Runner sound effects played throughout the night’s entire presentation.
Is the Cybertruck what happens when a sci-fi fan also happens to be a multi-billionaire?
It’s Also Genius
The design overall is a bit awkward and ungainly, particularly around the wheel wells and some of the proportions, but I get what they’re going for—something futuristic, surprising, and thoroughly avant-garde.
In that sense the truck is a smashing success. Its front light bar and roof bar are brilliant, its high waistline slices crisply down the side and projects outward, adding an extra dimension to the exterior, and its profile slopes down to the front, adding a bit of Mad Max-ian urgency and speed to the car’s vibe. Its triangular cab is more at home off-world than in the Home Depot parking lot, but it does cap off a thoroughly executed, highly conceived design. They went for itwith this truck.
Ultimately, it may not appeal to a lot of conventional truck-driving folk, but it could also create a whole new class of enthusiasts for the segment, the brand, and electrification itself.
10. Tesla’s electric truck specs beggar belief. Armored glass and “ultra-hard 30X cold-rolled stainless steel” render it impervious to dents and dings (and I suppose bullets?). On stage last night, Tesla’s chief designer Franz von Holzhausen swung a hammer to demonstrate the steel’s hardiness, although a metal sphere hurled at a window managed to crack it: “Not bad—room for improvement,” Musk joked. It boasts a range between 250 to 500 miles per charge with “more performance than a sports car” with no direct carbon emissions. The base version will cost just $39,900 (cheaper than most Model 3s!) and production is slated for late 2022 (take all of Musk’s deadlines with a mountain of salt).
Not that this matters. After all, it’s a Tesla. Vehicles, at least in this class, are about identity. Most pickups, it turns out, are “cowbo custom,” an expensive way to haul air and make a statement. Only 25%of truck owners ever drive off-road or tow something. The most important features truck buyers want in their pickup? “To look good while driving, to present a tough image, to have their car act as an extension of their personality, and to stand out in a crowd.”