Looking more moon rover than mall cruiser, Tesla’s Cybertruck concept might see some styling adjustments before production to account for global regulations around lighting and bumpers. (Tesla)

Tesla Cybertruck takes styling, materials risks

Solar-power and “off-world” capability are also part of Tesla’s polarizing pickup truck concept design.

Tesla has unveiled its latest concept electric vehicle (EV), the Cybertruck. Revealed at a post-L.A. Auto Show event at Tesla’s design center just south of L.A. in Hawthorne, California on November 21, the angularly styled pickup truck purportedly will use stainless-steel unibody construction, an adaptable air suspension and offer both RWD and multi-motor AWD versions. According to Tesla, the first (RWD) versions will come to market at the end of 2021 with a base price (before EV incentives) of $39,900.

The new Cybertruck will feature a unibody construction with a tall sail panel, using what Tesla labels “ultra-hard 30X cold-rolled stainless-steel.” Tesla claims the material will help eliminate dents and long-term corrosion, and is the same material used in the SpaceX Starship rocket. The truck also will feature Tesla’s “Armor Glass”, a polymer-layered composite which can help absorb and redirect impact forces for improved damage tolerance. Unfortunately, during the unveil, the material failed twice, spidering when Tesla chief designer Franz von Holzhausens hurled a steel ball at the side windows.

Tesla described its latest concept as having ‘better utility than a truck with more performance than a sports car,” and claims it will seat six while providing a payload capacity of 3,500 lbs. (1,588 kg). The Cybertruck bed (what Tesla labels the “vault’) is 6.5 ft. (1,981 mm) in length and features a deployable tonneau cover, part of the claimed 100 ft2 (2.83 m2) of lockable storage when combined with the front trunk and space in the sail panels. The sparse interior featured a 17-in. touchscreen in a landscape configuration, and Tesla claims some impressive off-road ability with up to 16 in. (406 mm) of ground clearance and approach/departure angles of 35°/28°.

The Cybertruck will be offered in three variants: single-motor RWD; dual-motor AWD and tri-motor AWD. No battery capacities were discussed, but Tesla claims the base RWD model will provide a 250-mile (402 km) range, a 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) time of less than 6.5 sec. and 7,500 lbs. (3402 kg) of towing capacity. The same specs for the dual-motor ($49,900) and tri-motor ($69,900) versions are 300 miles (483 km) /4.5 sec/10,000 lbs.(4536 kg) and 500 miles (805 km)/2.9 sec./14,000 lbs. (6350 kg) respectively. The production of the multi-motor models is not expected until “late 2022.”

According to Tesla, the adaptive air suspension creates an onboard air compressor as a source for pneumatic tools, and the truck will feature both 110v and 220v power outlets. Tesla also showed off an electric quad concept at the Cybertruck unveil, which can be charged while stowed in the bed of the truck. Since its unveil, Tesla’s Elon Musk revealed via a tweet that the Cybertruck will feature optional solar panels that will provide as much as 15 miles (24 km) of daily charging range.

The Cybertruck is the fourth prototype announced by Telsa that has yet to reach production (following the Semi, Roadster coupe and Model Y compact SUV). No manufacturing locations were announced for the Cybertruck, leaving market analysts to wonder how and where Tesla will find the capacity and production space to bring all four new models to market in the next few years. On the same day as the Cybertruck unveil, GM CEO Mary Barra announced its electric pickup will go on sale in fall 2021, with both startup Rivian (R1T) and Ford (F-150) having already announced EV pickup trucks coming to market.

Many have noted that the Cybertruck’s styling is more akin to a lunar rover than an earthbound conveyance, which might not be that far off the mark. Since its launch last week, Musk has tweeted that a “pressurized edition” of the Cybertruck will be the “official truck of Mars.” The unusual styling has not deterred some potential customers, as Musk claimed via a tweet that Tesla has already received more than 200,000 deposits for the Cybertruck (a refundable $100). Reservations had so far broken down as 42% choosing the AWD dual-motor version, 41% choosing the most expensive AWD tri-motor configuration, and 17% putting money down on the base RWD single-motor version.

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