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On November 21, 2019, Elon Musk revealed the brand new Tesla Cybertruck. In a ceremony reminiscent of a Steve Jobs presentation, he declared that the truck, “...doesn’t look like anything else.” And he was certainly right about that. It looks dystopian and post-apocalyptic, with a distinct cyberpunk flair. Like it was designed to withstand laser blasts or food riots or the terrible acting of Nicholas Cage.
The Cybertruck website declares that it has, “Better utility than a truck with more performance than a sports car.” Sounds like the perfect vehicle for the Silicon Valley bro who likes to fell large trees in his spare time.
But what do we really know about the Cybertruck? Here are 10 surprising facts about it.
"1976 Lotus Esprit submarine car - James Bond" by sv1ambo is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Musk said that the Cybertruck’s design was distinctly influenced by two movies: Blade Runner and the James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me. Musk said that the Lotus Espirit, which played a prominent part in the Bond movie, was a big inspiration to him. He told Jalopnik:
It was amazing as a little kid in South Africa to watch James Bond in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ drive his Lotus Esprit off a pier, press a button and have it transform into a submarine underwater. I was disappointed to learn that it can’t actually transform. What I’m going to do is upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real.
Depending on how much cash you’re willing to fork out, the Cybertruck will come with either 1, 2, or 3 electric motors. The single motor truck will reach 60 mph in 6.5 seconds and tow up to 7,500 pounds. The double motor truck will hit 60 mph in only 4.5 seconds and pull up to 10,000 pounds. The triple motor version can get up to 60 mph in a surprising 2.9 seconds and tow up to 14,000 pounds.
In other words, the Cybertruck is perfect for hauling old mainframe computers, sports cars, cases of 1987 cabernet, or whatever else its owners desire.
If you want more proof that the truck is designed to survive a dystopian, semi-anarchic future, look no further than it’s “bulletproof” exterior. The truck’s exoskeleton is made from 30x cold-rolled stainless steel and is designed to withstand 9mm ammunition, which is commonly used in handguns and machine guns.
Musk demonstrated the strength of the exoskeleton by having design chief Franz Von Holzhausen hit the side of the truck with a sledgehammer. He teased about actually shooting it on stage but then declined, citing both OSHA and being in the state of California.
The reality is that the truck is not totally bulletproof. While it may be able to stand up to 9mm (and smaller) ammunition, there are plenty of larger weapons that could punch a hole in its side.
Of course, all this raises an important question: who needs a bulletproof truck? Generally speaking, there are two types of people who need bulletproof trucks:
Most ordinary folks have no need for bullet-resistant vehicles. Maybe Musk knows something about the future that we don’t.
Musk also proudly proclaimed that the windows were armored and incredibly difficult to break. To validate his claims, he had Holzhausen hurl steel balls at the windows. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite go as planned. The balls broke (not shattered) the windows, leaving large divots in both the front and rear windows. A stunned, momentarily unhinged Musk could be heard muttering expletives under his breath as he surveyed the damage.
Later in the week, Musk took to Twitter to explain why the windows broke. He explained that when Holzhausen hit the door with the sledgehammer, it cracked the base of the glass compromising its integrity. He then showed a video of the truck undergoing the exact same test before the unveiling and passing it with flying colors.
During his presentation, Musk took shots at both Ford and Porsche, claiming that the Cybertruck was superior to both. First, he showed the Cybertruck and a Ford F150 in a tug of war. The Cybertruck easily beats the F150 even though it was pulling uphill.
He then showed a video of the Cybertruck going head-to-head in a drag race against a Porsche 911. Even though the Porsche has a head start, the Cybertruck quickly overtakes it, demonstrating the speed at which it can accelerate.
In response, Sundeep Madra, VP of Ford’s experimental division “Ford X”, tweeted at Musk, “Send us a Cybertruck and we will do the apples to apples test for you.” Musk simply replied, “Bring it on.”
So basically what we have is the adult version of, “My dad could beat up your dad.” Don’t you just love capitalism?
Okay, they’re not exactly pre-orders. More like reservations. Telas is allowing customers to “pre-order” the Cybertruck for only $100, with the final price being either $39,900, $49,900, or $69,900 (plus an additional $7,000 for the self-driving add-on).
According to Musk, Tesla has received over 250,000 pre-orders for the truck without using any paid advertising or endorsement.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that Tesla has actually sold that many trucks. When the time comes to pay in full, we should expect some of those pre-orders to be cancelled. Who knows how many Cybertrucks were pre-ordered by Musk fan boys who don’t actually have forty grand to drop on a vehicle?
The truck has an adaptive air expansion, which gives it a ground clearance of about 16 inches. In theory, this should be enough to allow the truck to be taken offroad, although Musk didn’t say anything about breakover angle, which determines if the axle will hit the ground when going over a hill. The length of the truck suggests is relatively low, which will make it more difficult to use offroad.
In his presentation, Musk claimed that the truck could survive the Baja 1000, which is an extreme off-road event that pushes vehicles to the limit. Whether it could actually do such a thing remains to be seen.
Called the “vault”, the Cybertruck bed is made of stainless steel (like the rest of the truck) and is 6.5 feet long. Unlike most pickup trucks, there are no wheel wells jutting into the bed. The side panels feature storage compartments, and the tailgate has a loading ramp that slides out, allowing things to be easily loaded into the bed. 120 volt and 220 volt chargers are built directly into the bed, along with an air compressor. If you want to secure the contents of the bed, you can use the integrated bed cover (which will also make the truck more aerodynamic).
One of the challenges of driving any Tesla vehicle is that you can only go so far before you need to recharge the battery. And unlike gas stations, which are literally everywhere, Tesla charging stations are much more sparse.
In response, Tesla is doing two things. First, they’re offering an optional stacked battery with the Cybertruck that can last for up to 500 miles, which is 35% longer than the Model S sedan (the Tesla with the furthest range). The standard battery pack only lasts up to 250 miles, so the stacked battery pack is key if Cybertruck owners want to make long journeys.
Second, Tesla plans on expanding their network of Supercharger stations into more rural areas, which will make it much easier to recharge the truck on longer trips.
To say that the Cybertruck’s design is bulky is a serious understatement. The large side panels in the bed make it pretty difficult for drivers to see what’s behind them and in their blind spots.
To get around this problem, the Cybertruck comes equipped with a digital rearview system. The rearview “mirror” is actually a screen, showing a live feed of what’s behind the truck.
At this point, it’s tough to know whether the Cybertruck is a revolution or a gimmick. Will it transform the truck industry or will it simply be a cool vehicle that appeals primarily to Tesla fans? That remains to be seen.
What is clear is that the Cybertruck is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before (except in the movies). And for that you have to give Elon Musk credit.