The motor world expected the Tesla pickup to look, let’s say, strange. Renderings of a massive wedge-shaped vehicle that could fit a Ford F-150 in the back made the rounds a couple years ago, giving us a taste of the forward-thinking design the truck would likely take. But then Elon Musk walked out of the future as we all thought it might look in the late ’90s to reveal the Cybertruck.
It’s weirder than anyone could have imagined. Individual taste will dictate whether you find it ugly or interesting, though, new for a Tesla, “beautiful” is not likely a term anybody would use to describe it. An “angry triangle” made the rounds on Twitter, and that feels about right.
But bizarre looks and a name that seems hastily thrown together by a marketing team that forgot it had a big presentation due until minutes before Elon asked for it aside, is this actually a compelling rig? The eco-conscious overlanding community has been wondering about an electric truck for years, being cautiously optimistic about the Rivian, but probably expecting Tesla to drop something that would actually penetrate the market. The Cybertruck is a massive, Tesla coming out of their shoes, swing for the fences and if it succeeds, it could be an interesting direction in vehicle production that many probably didn’t see coming.
We didn’t watch the unveiling, so forgive if this is a rehash, but the blocky industrial look of the Cybertruck serve some well-thought-out purposes. The silver skin is 3mm of tough, rust-proof, dent-proof, stainless steel. The sharp angles are there for a reason—the truck is incredibly easy to build. Just fold it in a giant origami truck machine. Well, alright, there’s more to it than that. Rather than complicated, expensive tooling and giant stamping machines pumping out curved pieces of lighter materials for the skin, the stainless steel panels are just crimped and folded on simple machines. Stainless steel is relatively cheap, the machines that bend it are too, and the energy it takes to fold it all into the Cybertruck are far, far less than it takes to make a Model 3, for example. Or for that matter, a Nissan Sentra.
Remember Saturn? The car company, not the planet. They were famous for being tough as nails on the outside, or at least they were at first. Dealerships had big hammers lying around and encouraged customers to take a swing at a Saturn’s door panel. See, no dents. Same deal with the Cybertruck. Good luck roughing up that steel skin. Which, if your main concern is driving offroad, not maintaining your $50,000 Tacoma’s pristine paint, that’s something you’d ostensibly want.
It’s not body on frame, either, as you’d likely suspect. A unibody cage designed by SpaceX engineers is underneath all that stainless steel (some of that steel clads SpaceX rockets, by the way). A massive sail pillar prevents twisting, especially under towing, which you can absolutely do with this thing—it sports a towing capacity, depending on which motor and drive system is employed, between 7,500 to 14,000 pounds. During the big reveal, Elon showed video of the Cybertruck out-towing a Ford F-150.
There was also video of it smoking a Porsche off the line, which is to be expected with powerful electric motors. The AWD with three motors can do 0-60 in 2.9 seconds, if you need to. The base model, single motor RWD version still does 0-60 in 6.5 seconds, not bad at all.
Range begins at 250 miles for the cheapie RWD version and goes all the way up to 500 miles for a $70k, triple-motor AWD baddie. That’s probably the one you’ll want, as if you’re willing to put up with how this looks, you likely will be wanting the range for some truly out-there adventures.
Speaking of which, it looks like it will crawl over just about anything. It boasts a 35-degree approach angle, 28-degree departure angle, and 16 inches of ground clearance.
They expect to begin selling in 2021.
Now, it’s totally possible this is a ruse or a prototype of a model that will look much softer on the eyes when production rolls out. But the unique, frankly bizarre design is a refreshing take on new ways to build vehicles. It’s utilitarian for a vehicle meant for utilitarian purposes. It’s cheap to build, and requires a heck of a lot less energy to do it. It doesn’t require paint, saving more energy, reducing chemical and water use. No worries about denting it, saving body shop work down the road. Many buyers who purchase electric vehicles to reduce carbon emissions likely aren’t considering the impact of actually building the things, something that is front and center with the Cybertruck.