This afternoon the world got its first look at the Tesla Cybertruck and as expected the reactions were divided. After watching the live stream of the event, then following the reactions online across multiple platforms, it’s time to break down and reflect on what the hell happened today.
Before we get into the details of Tesla’s worst launch in some time, it’s important to point out that I love the company, enough to buy a Model 3, so this isn’t Tesla bashing for the sake of it, just an opportunity to look at what was announced and reflect on how it could be better.
Going into the event, Musk’s cautionary tweets regarding the design, made me nervous for them. This was likely to divide people and while the positive side of that divisions could create life-long fans, the negative side means you’re missing out on sales.
We continue to hear that the Model 3, then the Model Y, then FSD are all so absolutely critical to the future of the company, so why then would you create a design of your newest vehicle that was so radical that it means a large slab of people will never buy it?
The Cybertruck is the latest creation from genius designer Franz von Holzhausen, while Franz was at the event today, it seemed this truck was far more of a passion project from Musk’s childhood after watching Blade Runner in 1982, than anything Franz would be proud of.
When the Cybertruck was revealed I honestly thought it was a joke. I don’t care that Tesla doesn’t want to restrict themselves to things that ‘look Tesla’ and would fit with the brand, but I did think Tesla stood for smart, sexy, efficient and powerful, but apparently it also stands for just plain weird as well.
The aspect that grinds me the most is the acute angle at which the side profile. It just doesn’t look good to me. It is like what I imagine a futuristic vehicle from the 1980s would look, not a futuristic vehicle from 2020 with a design that should stand up for the next 10-20 years.
Given the angles, rear headroom would almost certainly be compromised for the rear passengers, especially given their elevated seating positions, thanks to the batteries in the floor of the Cybertruck.
There are angled wheel arches for the first time on a Tesla, for no particular reason and there was no mention of windscreen wipers on that massive front windscreen.
The wheels have some crazy new 7-spoke design that looks straight out of the military, rather than an elegant Silicon Valley design solution to optimising aerodynamics and range.
The LED light strip from the teaser image was real, which was also complemented by a rear LED strip for tail lights. These are very simple, not the stunning full-width light arrays found from other manufacturers.
The truck not a tray with a body mounted on top like most, instead the hardened stainless steel body is integrated into the chassis. To prove how strong the vehicle was, there were some on-stage demonstrations involving a sledgehammer. I’m not convinced that having strong body panels is an important metric consumer care about, we don’t have that in any other vehicle type.
The demo to prove how strong the glass is was going well until they decided to throw a stainless steel ball at the glass which actually broke both the front and rear windows. This really distracted Musk and his presentation was far less impactful, distracted by what had just occurred.
Despite the demo fail, Tesla clearly plans on leveraging its investment in glass development on solar tiles that can withstand being hit by hail.
One of the press images released with the Cybertruck shows it towing a trailer that matches the design styling. With such a radical design departure, any standard trailer would look very outdated and strange by comparison.
There’s a couple of images showing the rear bed both open and closed with a canopy that also doubles to secure your storage area. From videos of test rides, it has been revealed this is actually a rollable surface that can be stowed underneath the rear passengers.
Wheel from the Roadster
While the interior was not discussed during the presentation, we’ve now seen the interior shots and the steering wheel in the Cybertruck looks to by straight out of the upcoming Roadster.
When asked if the interior was final, the one Tesla employee giving rides explained that it shows the direction they’re heading for the production version. I’d take this as a statement that gives them the capacity to adjust and tweak, but for the most part, the interior styling will be what we saw today.
Display from the Model 3
The center-mounted display of the Model 3 has found its way into the Cybertruck. The big deal here is that the display is 17″ in size and was running a completely new version of the software.
The software on the display in the Cybertruck featured vertically-orientated controls, the first time we’ve seen that on a horizontally-mounted display.
Given the Model 3 features the same display, we may have just got a preview into the future direction for the UI in the Model 3. Read more about the new UI here.
It seems Tesla really can’t decide what the best solution to door handles is. The Model S, X, 3 all have different door handles and now the Cybertruck looks like we’re back to the Model S-style again.
These handles are big, robust, strong and easy to grip, so make lots of sense for a truck, particularly if the doors end up being fairly heavy. What I expect to see is also a return to the ‘greet you’ style automatic extrusion of the handles as you approach the car with your phone in your pocket.
The rear-view mirror is a display that is powered by a rear-facing camera. This is to allow for rear-vision for the driver, even when the bed of the vehicle is full. It’s a neat idea and one that has been around in prototypes for a while, so it is great to see it potentially moving into a production vehicle.
Something many people missed about the Cybertruck was the lack of side mirrors. While that provides uninterrupted airflow over the side of the vehicle, it also wouldn’t pass current Australian Design Rules. It is possible that over the next couple of years these rules change to accommodate this, as Tesla is certainly not the first company to experiment with deleting them.
While the Model S and Model X have had multiple seating options, the Cybertruck looks like a 6 seater as standard. It looks like you can fold down the center seat in the front row to make an armrest for the driver and passenger.
This is the first Tesla we’ve seen offered with 3 motors. While Tesla are planning on offering the new Roadster with 3 and the upgraded Model S Plaid with 3, the Cybertruck order page actually gives you the choice to order that today.
The Cybertruck also supports Adaptive Air Suspension to give it the capacity to transform between a vehicle that handles well or one that can support large towing or payload requirements.
The Tesla Cybertruck is available in Single Motor RWD, Dual Motor AWD and Tri Motor AWD. Each powertrain comes with a different battery size, range, towing capacity and performance time.
|Single Motor RWD||Dual Motor AWD||Tri Motor AWD|
|Range: 402km / 250 miles (EPA Estimated)|
Towing Capacity: 3,400kg / 7,500 pounds
Acceleration: 0-60mph in <6.5 seconds.
|Range: 482km / 300 miles (EPA Estimated)|
Towing Capacity: 4,500kg / 10,000 pounds
Acceleration: 0-60mph in <4.5 seconds.
|Range: 804km / 500 miles (EPA Estimated). |
Towing Capacity: 6,350kg / 14,000 pounds
Acceleration: 0-60mph in <2.9 seconds.
The Full Self-Driving package is available on the Cybertruck for A$8,500, but as you know from the other Tesla vehicles, this is a promise for the future.
For a vehicle with this range and this performance, you’d expect to pay a considerable amount. Before the event, Musk had confirmed in a podcast that they were targeting a US$49,900 price point.
This meant that when the actual starting price was announced at US$39,900, it was incredibly well-received by the crowd.
As we know a large part of the cost of electric vehicles right now is still their battery. To achieve the rang that Tesla is promoting here, particularly without an uber-efficient design, the battery pack has to be massive.
The battery in the Cybertruck could be as much as 200kW which would be incredibly expensive today, but by the time 2021/2022 production rolls around, Tesla should have Gigafactory 4 also pumping out batteries, lowering the cost per unit.
The Cybertruck event was messy for Tesla, not their usual slick, slightly awkward, but a firework of great facts dressed in a universally accepted slick design.
It seems strange Tesla haven’t found a way to lower the tailgate electronically. The ATV loading looked very manual and the tailgate looked really heavy, this may just a prototype thing, but the production version really should have a more elegant solution for this.
There’s obviously be fans that’ll be everything Tesla, but I don’t expect the Cybertruck to make a serious dent in the sales legacy nameplates in this category. That’s the real shame of the design, it’s too out there to appeal to a mass audience and wasn’t that the whole goal of the company?
All things considered, I really just want the all-electric Tesla 4×4 that was loaded into the back of the Cybertruck. I think that product on its own could be a real winner for the company, as many of us love EVs and also love weekend off-roading.
The Cybertruck is due for production to start in 2021, with the tri-motor version starting in 2022. If we go off the Model 3 experience, expect Australian availability to be a little delayed as RHD versions take a while to implement, however, the order page did open to Australia today. You can reserve now for A$150.