This is not another Tesla fanboy wish-list of features one would like to see in the upcoming Tesla Pickup. What’s offered here is hardcore analysis on why the Tesla Pickup may shape up to be the most advanced automotive machine ever built.
(November 25, 2019 Update: the Tesla Cybertruck has been revealed, and yes, it’s as epic as this story predicted. Here’s a post-reveal update. But you should still read this story to understand why it’s such a big deal!)
Yes, Mars. The Red Planet. The chief object of purpose and desire for the large SpaceX family — within SpaceX, and observing from the side. Humanity is headed to Mars, and whatever you may think of Elon Musk, he is indisputably the most effective force agitating us to become an interplanetary species.
We are headed to Mars; once there, they will need “rovers” to roam around and explore. The Tesla Pickup represents an ideal rover platform for Mars.
Musk is known for his mantra of “order-of-magnitude” productivity, efficiency, etc. gains. Musk’s firms and engineering teams are also known to cross-pollinate ideas, knowhow, and human resources.
Nothing would be more quintessentially Musk than to reveal that the reason SpaceX has been able to cut space-exploration costs so much is because of out-of-the-box ideas like … simply repurposing Tesla Pickup trucks for Martian missions.
1A. Electric Propulsion on Mars
Proven, tested, safe electric rover propulsion systems would mean huge reduction in the complexity (and attendant risk!) of space travel and Martian settlement.
1B. Biohazard Mode → Mars Lifesupport Mode
Many folks were puzzled by Tesla Model X’s “biohazard mode” option (which delivers the world’s highest quality filtration). Like so many things Tesla, it seemed like overkill at first.
Building a super-filter for LA-level particulate matter and roadway exhausts is one thing, but claiming biohazard withstand-ability takes it on a whole other level. It suggests cabin seals that could potentially be pressurized, and that’s speaking only of existing Model X technology.
As any pickup worth its salt will be exposed to harsh operating conditions and natural elements, including water wading, a Tesla Pickup will already have strong cabin/drivetrain water/air-sealing as a design objective. But designing with a view towards Martian rover cross-compatibility means the Tesla Pickup will likely debut with many world’s-first automotive feats in a production car. Think full-submersibility. As in, Tesla Pickup = Tesla Yacht = Tesla Submarine = Tesla Submersible.
1C. Tesla-to-Space Precedent
While many people thought the launch of the Tesla Roadster into space was a fluke, perhaps the SpaceX wizards of Hawthorne (SpaceX headquarters) were actually testing mounting, stress, and performance characteristics of Teslas as space vehicles.
Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster - Wikipedia
Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster is an electric sports car that served as the dummy payload for the February 2018 Falcon…
If this turns out to be true, it gives even deeper meaning to the new SpaceX motto of being a “mobility company” more so than just an advanced aerospace operator.
This reason is a bit more subjective than others, but it holds water. The basic idea is this: Tesla will make the Tesla Pickup “orders of magnitude” stronger, tougher, and more capable in order to relegate diehard ICEers to the fringe.
But first, what’s ICE-ing? It’s a nasty practice where drivers of especially dirty Internal Combustion Engine (hence, ICE) trucks actively harass and attack Tesla and other electric car drivers.
A video is worth a million words:
The only way to shut up ICEers is to make a pickup truck that can and will outcompete ICE-trucks in every known category and performance characteristic.
It sounds like an impossible feat. Maybe. But if Tesla engineers have shown anything over the past five years, it is that seemingly impossible feats are only impossible until they are accomplished. If there’s any team with motivation, capacity, and resources to develop this new genre of Super Pickup, it’s Tesla.
Concretely: 20,000lb+ towing capacity; 1,000+ horsepower; fastest-in-class (unloaded 0–60 in <5s; mid-loaded 0–60 in <10s); longest-lasting; safest; etc.
This reason is a bit more wonkish, but here it goes. Many people have asked, begged, and pleaded with Tesla to sell the signature Tesla drivetrain (the so-called “Skateboard” powerplant + drivetrain) by itself, permitting the conversion of existing cars into Tesla e-cars.
With Teslafication, the argument goes, we can repurpose many existing vehicles into highly-efficient and well-performing sorta-Teslas. Right now, this is already happening, with small enthusiast communities using salvage Tesla drivetrains to power everything from WV buses to muscle cars. If Tesla made their skateboard chassis available more broadly, it would accelerate the electrification of motoring.
Here’s how the Tesla Pickup fits into this narrative.
Elon Musk knows there’s a huge market for high-quality niche automotive models, like vans (e.g., a Tesla Sprinter), minibuses, ambulance and first responder vehicles, speciality-built cabin vehicles (like those servicing railroads, airports, etc.).
But it is expensive and extremely difficult to produce these smaller-volume vehicles, despite the clear need for the technology.
The Tesla Pickup offers an excellent compromise. As with existing pickup truck conversions for each of the aforementioned uses, the pickup tray is easily removable. What you put in its place is up to you, and can be sourced from hundreds of experienced and established truck outfitters.
Tesla can produce one Pickup (with several power options, as is the practice with Model S, X, 3, etc.). Customers can easily tear out the standard truck bed, and replace it with a caboose-to-suit.
Want a Tesla RV? A Tesla Tow-Truck? A Tesla Limo? A Tesla Toy-Hauler? Just buy a Tesla Pickup and go from there.
Working with select third-party outfitters, Tesla could even incentivize customers with promises of full drivetrain warranties even after being outfitted by a Tesla-certified installer — like Mercedes’ existing arrangement with, say, Sportsmobile.
Here’s Musk on the Recode Decode podcast with Kara Swisher speaking about the Tesla Pickup:
Elon Musk on Tesla Pickup: It’s gonna be like a really futuristic-like cyberpunk, “Blade Runner” pickup truck. It’s gonna be awesome, it’s gonna be amazing. This will be heart-stopping. It stops my heart. It’s like, oh, it’s great.
And so a lot of attention has been spent analyzing styling cues.
But heart-stopping performance can also come in the form of seemingly mundane but extraordinary utility gains (think self-driving waste disposal vehicles; self-driving delivery vehicles; etc). All of these hyperutility propositions can, should, and will be built on Tesla Pickup platforms.
Concretely, this could mean Tesla Pickup truck drivetrains powering farm vehicles, mining vehicles, blurring the line between truck and, say, tractor. A string of Tesla pickups could theoretically replace diesel-burning locomotives.
If the Tesla Pickup drivetrains offer true Muskian order-of-magnitude utility gains — measured in terms of raw power output and/or longevity and/or safety and/or range, and so on — then the pickup will be truly epic.
Applied to the agriculture and mining sectors alone, adaptation of Tesla Pickups would mean a return to much cleaner farming practices — in contrast to today’s dirty, dangerous, and grossly-inefficient *auto-mechanized* farming and mining practices (emphasis on the automotive mechanics).
Tesla’s not the only firm working on an electric pickup truck.
Competitors include firms like Rivian, Bollinger, and others. Recently, Teslarati spotted Tesla’s chief designer — Franz von Holzhausen — scoping out the competition.
Today’s competition to the Tesla Pickup seems to be tailoring products to fit existing markets — high-end pickup trucks, large 7-seater family-haulers (Expedition, Suburban, Land Cruiser), etc.
Here’s another potential competitor, the Bollinger B1 and B2:
Of all potential competitors, the 300-series Land Cruiser (2020–2030) seems to be the key *stealth* competitor to the Tesla Pickup. Please note, information on the 300-series Land Cruiser has not been released or announced, so the analysis here follows previous Land Cruiser model development cycles.
The basic premise here is simple. Toyota produces a dizzying range of global Land Cruiser models — including the venerable 70-series for the Australian, and commercial mining markets; the 200-series in multiple diesel/gas configurations for global customer needs. A chief competitive advantage that Toyota brings to the development of different Land Cruiser models is shared platform design for key component systems (think similarities between Land Cruiser, Sequoia, Tundra in the U.S., or Land Cruiser Prado, Tacoma, 4Runner, etc.).
Toyota has most likely already designed a 300-series electric platform that will undergird the new generations of its highly-capable light-truck and heavy-truck vehicles. Toyota is just waiting for the right time to launch.
Bollinger and Rivian are cool, but if Tesla wants to dominate the pickup truck world, it will need to dominate in the only place that where it ultimately matters — on the trails, in the mud, and on the mountain knife’s edge. In those rarified heights, the Toyota Tacoma and the Land Cruiser reign supreme.
To beat them & to conclusively win the pickup truck rally, here is what the Tesla Pickup truck must offer buyers:
- 2020 MSRP < $50K (fully equipped);
- True 4x4 (+ locking CFR diffs);
- Short-bed & long-bed (short & long wheelbase);
- Easy truck-bed removal;
- Production winch/rally bumpers (front and rear);
- High wheel travel;
- Simple, swappable, suspension setup;
- Built-in solar charging (including support for subsequent scaling & expansion);
- Excellent off-grid-ability (long range and enough power for high voltage power tools in remote applications)
- Easy bumper/fender removal/upgrading (without impacting road sensors, airbag sensors, etc.);
- Underbody armor that de facto serves as sliders, skid plates, etc;
- [… have more? Drop them in the comments below]
Of the characteristics we’d most like to see in a Tesla Pickup, a big bright Model X & Tesla Semi-style windshield and cockpit would be at the very top. It doesn’t matter how big and powerful today’s Dodge Ram trucks are. If a 6'4" driver has less visibility in this truck than they do in a Honda Civic, the truck’s utility is poor. Fortunately, Tesla has been a darling of the automotive industry in this respect, giving drivers great visibility when most other manufacturers are forcing drivers to squint through smaller and smaller porthole windshields and windoews.
Beyond driver comfort and visibility (which directly translate into safety), the advice regarding easily swappable suspension components comes from a place of experience and pragmatism.
Pickup truck owners enjoy “modding” their trucks. One of the first mods many truckers make are larger tires and some sort of a lift. Relatively easy suspension upgrades (including air bag suspensions) are a big part of the allure of today’s pickups. Today’s trucks are sold as infinitely customizable templates, with extensive aftermarket support for mods, tweaks, hacks, and upgrades. Suspensions are the alpha and omega of these mods.
Tesla is likely to launch its Pickup with some sort of a stronger and longer Tesla Model X hydraulic suspension set up (think Range Rover and/or Lexus LX570). As with the Model X, Tesla will most likely hardwire the suspension to the Tesla Pickup operating system. That is only natural and to expected.
Yet Tesla should also see the value in allowing drivers to swap out their state-of-the-art hydraulic/air suspensions for more traditional coil-over-shock suspension setups (for particular use applications). The easier that Tesla makes it to work on the Tesla Pickup truck’s suspension, the more people will buy Tesla Pickups. It’s really that simple.
Easily-swappable suspension components also make it easier to adjust Tesla’s driving/hauling characteristics to different needs, including uniquely Martian ones.
These are the top 5 reasons why the Tesla Pickup will be epic. Don’t see your reason? Give it below in the comments, and let’s pick it apart.