Tesla reveals electric pickup
After a big Twitter-fueled buildup, on November 21st Tesla CEO Elon Musk previewed his company’s entry into the electric pickup truck market at the Tesla Design Center in Los Angeles. Even though Musk warned it would be radical, the Cybertruck reveal shocked attendees at the launch event and the rest of the world with its angular/planar design. Inspirations were said to range from the DeLorean DMC-12 from the Back to the Future movie to the submersible Lotus Espirit from the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, as well as the Lockheed Martin F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Fighter and U.S. Navy Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer.
The new Tesla is designed to have the utility of a truck—focusing on durability, versatility, and capability—and exceptional performance both off- and on-road—the latter approaching sports cars levels. During the brief preview Musk showed short video clips of the truck (controversially) pulling a Ford F-150 in an uphill tug-of-war and racing a current-edition Porsche 911 to bring home the point. Tesla says the Cybertruck’s all-electric design enables a new class of strength, speed, and versatility, with a powerful drivetrain and low center of gravity providing extraordinary traction control and torque.
The segment it will enter currently features the three best-selling passenger vehicles in the U.S., with Tesla claiming nearly 1,536,000 sold so far this year for Ford’s F-Series, FCA’s Ram pickups, and General Motors’ Chevrolet Silverado. Musk showed all three trucks badgeless, proclaiming: “We need something different, and we need sustainable energy now.” The Cybertruck adds to the growing list of fully electric competitors expected to range from the high-profile entries of traditional OEMs Ford and GM, to the leading new entrants Rivian R1T and Bollinger B2, to others like the Atlis XT and Lordstown Endurance.
The Cybertruck is said by Musk to be about the same weight and size of the F-150, measuring 231.7 in (5885 mm) long, 79.8 in (2027 mm) wide, and 75.8 in (1925 mm) tall. Weight was not disclosed. The fundamental design change, according to Musk, is that Tesla has moved the mass to the outside, creating an exoskeleton with a stressed-skin design instead of the traditional body- and bed-on-frame configuration.
The truck’s foundational exoskeleton exterior shell, made for ultimate durability and passenger protection, is of “thick, ultra-hard stainless steel.” The 30X cold-rolled stainless-steel alloy structural skin is said by Musk to be the same material developed for the Starship rocket from SpaceX. The use of the material and construction help to reduce dents, damage, and long-term corrosion. At the launch event, Tesla Chief Designer Franz von Holzhausen demonstrated the door’s strength with two heavy sledge-hammer blows with little discernable damage. A video demo also showed the door can withstand without penetration a ballistic impact from a 9-mm full-metal-jacket bullet from a 10-m (32-ft) range.
The windows are made from Tesla Armor Glass, described by Musk as “transparent metal,” a combination of ultra-strong glass and polymer-layered composite that can absorb and redirect impact force for improved damage tolerance. However, a second demonstration by von Holzhausen throwing a baseball-sized metal ball at the side window did not bounce off as planned. The glass shattered, and was attributed to weakening by the earlier sledge hammering of the side door. “Room for improvement,” said Musk.
The Cybertruck will come in three variants—single-motor rear-wheel drive, dual-motor all-wheel drive, and tri-motor all-wheel drive—with mostly ascending performance stats (in U.S. values). Specs revealed include the ability to pull a “near infinite mass,” and towing capabilities are more than 7500, 10,000, and 14,000 (3400, 4535, and 6350 kg) for the single-, dual-, and tri-motor variants, respectively. Payload capacity is up to 3500 lb (1590 kg).
Acceleration from 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) and range on a charge are 6.5 s and more than 250 mi (402 km) for the single-motor version; 4.5 s and more than 300 mi (483 km) for the dual-motor; and less than 2.9 s and more than 500 mi (805 km) for the tri-motor. The best quarter-mile acceleration time comes in at 10.8 s. Top speeds are 110, 120, and 130 mph (177, 193, and 209 km/h), respectively. Electric motor output and battery energy capacity were not revealed.
All Cybertrucks get what Tesla calls the vault, an enclosed 6.5 ft-(1.9 m-) long bed with motorized tonneau cover. Total capacity of 100 ft³ (2830 L) combined for exterior, lockable storage including the vault, frunk, and sail pillars. Interior highlights include a 17-in touchscreen and “flexible” seating capacity for up to six adults—three per row.
Autopilot and adjustable adaptive air suspension (for height and damping) are standard. The suspension allows 4 in (102 mm) of travel in either direction from the baseline, with ground clearance of up to 16 in (406 mm)—the highest of any truck, claimed Musk. Plus there is an onboard air compressor. Approach and departure angles are 35 and 28 degrees, respectively.
As with all other Teslas, charging can be done at home, Destination Charging locations, and more than 14,000 Superchargers, which are now getting the newest V3 technology. Combined with more than 250-kW vehicle charging (exact number to be revealed later), this is helpful for long hauls and towing. There are also 110- and 220-V on-board outlets, so “you don’t need a generator,” said Musk.
On the reveal day, Tesla opened the online pre-ordering of the truck to consumers with a low $100 deposit required. As of early December, Tesla has taken 250,000 deposits. Starting base prices range from just $39,900 to $49,900 and $69,900—without incentives. Total cost of ownership for the $49,900 dual-motor AWD model is estimated at $130/month lower than the average similarly priced ½-ton pickup at $570/month with a $500/month lease. A “full self-driving” option is listed at $7000.
That consumer demand, especially for the higher-spec variants, has already altered the market launch cadence for the variants. The Tesla website lists production of the two top variants (tri- and dual-motor) in late 2021, with single-motor models now pushed later—to late 2022. Before ending the event with test drives, Musk and company also unveiled a companion ATV that was driven into the Cybertruck’s bed using its built-in and telescoping ramp in the tailgate.