Skepticism Overshadows The Benefits Of The Tesla Cybertruck
It is November 21, 2019 in Los Angeles and it is the night of the Tesla Cybertruck reveal. Prior to that, there was not much info about what this model was going to look like and what to expect. I have come expecting that with Tesla you never really know what to expect until you see it. There was plenty of excitement in the air, especially among the tech bloggers and writers who were invited to attend the event. The opening from Elon Musk started off well as he got on stage to make a brief introduction. Then as he was talking something came rolling in on stage and my initial reaction was “WTH?” (is that what I really think I am seeing?)
It was a reaction that got me both bewildered and at the same time unexpected. You can even hear in some videos boos and jeers with rants of “No Way!” Once again Tesla has come up with a design that challenges convention. That is exactly what they did with the Cybertruck because it doesn’t even look like your typical pick-up truck. It was basically an inductive motor drivetrain that was fitted with a DeLorean or Lamborghini-esque style body. An electric ATV was also presented that can be loaded and charged on the back of the Cybertruck. Called the Cyberquad, it is meant to be an accessory to the pickup truck as ideal for recreational use.
As an EV, it has a range of 500 miles with an estimated battery capacity of 100–150 kWh. It is also quite fast, going from 0–60 in 2.9 seconds. That is something you would expect from a sportscar, not a pickup. Elon explained it has a stainless steel body exoskeleton that borrows from SpaceX rocket design. The body is supposed to be extra rigid and stronger than a typical car body, which was subjected to a sledge hammer test and passed. Next test is the glass on the windows that is supposed to be bullet proof aka Tesla Armor Glass. Unfortunately during the demo, the glass was shattered when hit with a metal ball. That lost some investor confidence as Elon mentions “room for improvement” regarding that.
The design has been described by some as weird and angular, but also interesting. It didn’t make much of an impression among auto enthusiasts since it doesn’t follow the standard for pickup trucks. It really looks like something out of a sci-fi flick that takes place in a dystopian future. The design looks rather dull and even boring if you consider the aesthetics. It looks like a polygon on wheels. Its body is not even painted and there is the absence of side mirrors, wipers and headlights. Others wondered where the loading bed was located (obviously in the back) because it just didn’t look like you would know when you first see it.
Mainstream media have done more to report about the strange design and the broken windows during the demo than what the Cybertruck is really about. It fits the narrative that the demo was disastrous for Tesla’s public relations. This has generated negative press that is leading some to just call this a terrible idea. I don’t think that is the case though. I actually think Tesla is thinking out of the box once again and innovating when the need arises. You can call the demo a flop, but the idea establishes what this type of model has the potential for.
Before dismissing the Cybertruck, you have to understand the idea from another perspective. It is true that the design adopted a futuristic and minimalist style, that doesn’t have the same look as its counterparts from GM or Toyota. The features are actually the talking point here and that should be discussed. The Cybertruck, despite its advanced features, is going to cost less than $40K which is not too much in the high end pickup truck market. It can also tow up to 14,000 lbs. with a tri-motor configuration, much more than the competition as of this writing when compared to the F-150’s 13,200 lbs. (currently the highest towing capacity). That right there is Tesla’s version of the pickup truck, which could tout it as an F-150 killer.
The interior is like your usual Tesla EV. It is spacious and comfortable for a pickup, described as having excellent leg room. I have heard some reviews about how it felt effortless when driving over uneven surfaces because of the adaptive air suspension. This makes it nice to drive off-road as described by some reporters. It also has a high vertical clearance of 16" off the ground. This allows for driving over rough terrain. Despite how it looks like from the outside, the Cybertruck does have headlights and also a loading bed with slots for anchoring that borrows from aerospace designs.
We can get into a form and function argument to make the case for the Cybertruck design, but perhaps the reason is quite clear. The pick-up is meant to evolve, and this is an early iteration of what to expect for the future. Higher towing capacity, comfort, safety and reliability are what consumers demand and that is what the Cybertruck wants to deliver along with new unconventional features like semi-autonomy, smart electronic systems and electrification. Since it is an EV, expect lower costs in savings compared to a typical pickup truck that runs on fuel. Now the market for a vehicle like this could draw in first time pickup truck owners.
After seeing it over and over, you kind of get used to the design. It reminds me of that feeling of wanting a Humvee when I first saw one. I am more impressed with the features, but it will probably need to undergo some more changes before the final model is released. It will probably need to have side mirrors and wipers for regulatory compliance. Imagine how much things have changed from the days of the horse drawn carriage to the internal combustion engine. Things evolve over time to improve the design and increase efficiency. What we will see when it finally hits the market is probably not the same thing we saw on stage. What Tesla is doing is not simply making an electric pickup truck, they are reinventing the whole idea. Cybertruck is a work in progress, so the design and features will continue to evolve. When this becomes more refined, I would consider getting one. Is it going to be worth it? Sure, why not.