The Untold Truth Of The Tesla Cybertruck

The future is here, and once again, Elon Musk appears to be the guy pushing the envelope. Some people laughed. Others cheered. No matter what side of the spectrum you're on, there's no doubting that the Cybertruck has already seized the world's attention.

Now, obviously, the Cybertruck is the sort of thing that only a comic book fan could have dreamed up. Between the fun name, the size, the power, and the fact that it looks just like something Batman would drive through Gotham City, this is a vehicle that would seem more at home in a science fiction movie than real life. And yet, here it is, and it's divided the populace into those who love the design, and those who think it's a blocky abomination straight out of a mid-nineties video game. Either way, you have to give Tesla credit for putting this thing out there, since it's arguably the most unique automobile of the decade.

What is the Cybertruck, exactly?

The simple answer? The Cybertruck is Tesla's newest vehicle, and it's basically just an electric truck ... with a really unusual design, natch.

The longer answer: the Cybertruck is the long-awaited, electric-powered pickup truck that Elon Musk has been promising for ages, and needless to say, the final product (in its current form, anyhow) is wildly different from what anyone expected. When it was unveiled at a Los Angeles event in November of 2019, the Cybertruck's stainless steel exterior, angular design, and huge size caught a lot of eyeballs, especially considering that this thing is going to be competing with conventional products like the Ford F-150. 

Even before the curtains rose, Musk was already talking up the vehicle's unique look, according to the New York Times, citing Blade Runner as an influence, while confidently proclaiming that, "It's not going to be for everyone." He openly theorized that some folks would refuse to buy it just based on its unconventionality alone, and he mocked this reasoning as being comparable to those who first rejected the automobile in favor of their old-fashioned horse and carriage. Ouch.

There's a reason the Cybertruck looks so unusual

While Musk probably enjoyed hitting the world over the head with something that looks like a shimmering Minecraft car, the Cybertruck's innovative design isn't just about aesthetics. According to Musk's tweets, the "Reason Cybertruck is so planar is that you can't stamp ultra-hard 30X steel, because it breaks the stamping press."

Now, don't worry, you aren't the only person scratching your head. See, after originally considering giving the vehicle a titanium outer shell, Tesla instead opted for cold-rolled 30X stainless steel. Put simply, according to TopSpeed, "cold-rolling" means the steel is rolled out at room temperatures, instead of searing hot ones. This same super-tough material was designed and used for Musk's SpaceX program, for the exterior of space vehicles. So if you think the Cybertruck looks like a rocket ship on wheels ... well, that's pretty much exactly what it is, on a certain level. Groovy, right?

The perks of the weird design may extend further than that, though. When Wired spoke to Raphael Zammit, head of the MFA Transportation Design program at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, the old school car guy acknowledged that his initially horrified reaction was flipped around when he realized that the simple and flat design might be a way to streamline the entire manufacturing process. As Zammit tells it, "Musk might be pulling off one of the most brilliant moves in automotive history."

The whole Windowgate debacle, explained

So far, the biggest snafu in the Cybertruck publicity machine has been "Windowgate," the hashtag name for a rather unfortunate incident that occurred during the Cybertruck's big premier, according to Forbes. What happened, basically, was that after Musk showcased the vehicle's alleged indestructibility by having his lead designer smack it straight on with a sledgehammer (impressive!), he followed it up by having the same dude throw a steel ball right at the driver's side window ... at which point the window cracked into a spiderweb of glass. Uh-oh. Hedging his bets, Musk ordered a second ball thrown at the next window. That one broke, too.

Now, Musk did the best he could to undo the PR damage. For one, he pointed out that while the windows did break, they didn't shatter, and no glass got inside the vehicle. True, that. Furthermore, as the breakage video went viral, Musk publicly explained (and joked) about the incident, according to the Mercury News, by posting a video of the same steel balls not breaking the windows, and then explaining that Windowgate was actually the fault of the sledgehammer: evidently, the impact on the door cracked the base of the glass, which was why the steel balls didn't just bounce off like they did in previous tests. Fair enough. 

Nonetheless, the fervor around Windowgate did sink Tesla's stock price, so it's certainly a good thing that the Cybertruck isn't finished, and Tesla is giving itself a nice long time to iron out all the (cracked) kinks. 

How is the Cybertruck selling?

While you might already be dreaming of the day you park one of these bad boys in your driveway and freak out your UFO-concerned neighbors, don't get too excited: according to Business Insider, the vehicle isn't set to even begin production until late 2021, meaning it'll be at least another year after that before you start seeing these parked at the local grocery store. Bummer.

That said, if you have extra bucks to throw down, you can start financing one today. You wouldn't be the first. Despite the fact that Tesla hasn't even launched advertisements yet, and probably won't for a long while, Elon Musk says that there have already been over 250,000 pre-orders. Wow. To be clear, that doesn't mean that thousands of people have already started making monthly payments on unfinished vehicles, since pre-orders are just $100 each — and refundable — but still, as the Motley Fool points out, this means that Tesla has already earned a profit to the tune of $18 million. 

In the long run, Forbes predicts that the Cybertruck will be a big win for Tesla, and perhaps earn the company $4.5 billion in revenue by 2025. So, Musk can't be too offended by all those funny Cybertruck memes on Facebook. Honestly, he's probably laughing right along with them.

Investors are a bit wary about the Cybertruck

Not everyone is quite so enthused about the Cybertruck's financial prospects, however. As the pre-orders roll in, the Motley Fool reports that Tesla investors have been a lot more cautious about the whole thing, as Tesla's sinking stock demonstrates. Now, maybe part of this is just fallout from the whole Windowgate kerfuffle, but these investors do know what they're doing, and they have some viable concerns: for example, some critics think that the debate about the Cybertruck's design may be pointless, since the current vehicle is just a concept, and might look dramatically different by the time it hits the streets. 

One oft-repeated concern is the fact that it has no rear view mirrors on the sides (not just a safety hazard, but also a legal requirement if you want to take a cyber-trip across the United States), as well as tires that don't look production viable, and a lack of windshield wipers ... which, admittedly, would make driving in the rain a disaster, no matter how tough the vehicle may be. These are just layperson's concerns, of course, but the fact that such key elements seem to have not been incorporated into the design yet does point toward a long development cycle ahead. 

On the other hand, Tesla might just be doing some more fine tuning before they reveal how these features are going to work. For instance, MotorTrend points out that in 2019, Tesla filed a patent for a wild, space age-y electromagnetic windshield wiper system.

A smaller version of the Cybertruck may be on the way

The Cybertruck is one massive mofo. It rolls in at almost 20 feet in length (compared to the average 17 foot long pickup truck) with a 57-inch bed and a wheelbase of 149.9 inches, according to Motor1. This gives it a lot of power and towing capacity, but admittedly, it might also might require seriously reorganizing your garage, to say nothing of trying to parallel park this baby on a narrow street in Boston. Yikes.

Because of this, many have inquired regarding whether Tesla has plans to build a smaller model, and Elon Musk has tweeted back that in the long term, that's probably a sensible idea. That said, considering that production on the regular Cybertruck is still a couple years away, and Musk has also affirmed that he has no plans to do any more big product reveals for a long time, one can safely assume that the baby Cybertruck is a long, long way away.

Alternative designs for the Cybertruck have been proposed (by other people)

You know that your futuristic truck has caused a stir when other people, companies, and competitors donate free alternative concepts for your use.  One of the most notable designs that was  "gifted" to Tesla, pictured above, was drawn up by Nikola Motor Company — a hybrid truck design company that is named after the other half of inventor Nikola Tesla's name — via a tweet by CEO Trevor Milton. Milton offered this more conventional truck concept to Tesla in a way that, while phrased in friendly platitudes, was almost certainly intended to be a stick in the ribs. Don't count on Elon Musk taking the bait.

One particularly notable Cybertruck skeptic-turned-fan is Chris Livaudais, according to Fast Company, the executive director of the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA). For fun, Livaudais experimented with slightly different takes on the design, cutting open the truck bed and coloring the vehicle in orange, blue, or yellow, to respect the original intent while tinkering with other possibilities. Not everyone on the internet has been so kind, of course. One Redditor colored it in Vaporware patterns, another turned it into the Batmobile (honestly, didn't take much), and one person humorously asked if they could get the Cybertruck in matte black ... to which Musk responded "Sure," according to Inverse

Pick your favorite Cybertruck, of the three options

Personal flourishes aside, so far, Tesla has announced that the Cybertruck will come in three options when it eventually hits the highways, according to Wired: the basic version, which most folks will probably jump on first, will have a single motor, is retailing at $39,000, can tow 7,500 pounds, can go from 0 to 65 mph in 6.5 seconds, and will go 250 miles on a single charge. That means you can take this tank on a one-way trip from New York to Boston (215 miles) without recharging, or dumping your life savings on gasoline. Not bad, right? That said, those with bigger wallets, needs, or ambitions might be inclined to take the mid-level Cybertruck option, for $49,000. This one tows 10,000 pounds, goes from 0 to 60 mph in two fewer seconds, and will take you 300 miles on one charge, meaning that you can safely ride it from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, one way.

Finally, the most luxurious Cybertruck option comes in at $69,900, and while that practically sounds like buying a small house in a rural county, it will feature a tri-motor setup. This vehicle promises to tow 14,000 pounds, go from 0 to 60 mph in three seconds, and has a range of 500 miles (roughly the distance from Chattanooga, TN to Myrtle Beach, SC). This particular model won't hit production until 2022.

Will the Cybertruck drive itself?

Like it or not, autonomous vehicles are (probably) the future of the automobile industry, in a big way. Being the futuristic-minded person that he is, Elon Musk has been banking hard on self-driving cars for a long time. By mid-2020, according to the Verge, he hopes that Tesla's self-driving systems will reach the point that drivers can safely ignore the road ... you know, as opposed to unsafely ignoring the road, like they do today. Admittedly, Musk has been known to get ahead of himself with such predictions: Remember, he originally planned to have Tesla vehicles be fully self-driving by 2018, which obviously hasn't happened.

Now, to be clear, the Cybertruck is being created as a vehicle you'll be able to drive yourself, just like your current truck. Nonetheless, it wouldn't be Tesla if they weren't looking to add in some self-driving options, and so, Cybertruck customers have the option of purchasing "full self-driving" capabilities for an additional $7,000, a price that can be locked in today if you're willing to wait for technology that hasn't been finished yet. Fingers crossed, right?

By the way, do note that many experts have criticized the "full self-driving" branding that Tesla uses to promote this feature, because it doesn't actually make the vehicle fully autonomous — just partially. Huh. They might have a point. 

Elon Musk drove the Cybertruck through the streets of Los Angeles

It's not ready for the road, they say. It's just a concept vehicle, they say. "Hold my beer," says Elon Musk.

Clearly, the Tesla billionaire was done hearing complaints about how the Cybertruck won't work in real life, so in December of 2019, he took a prototype on a spin through the streets of Los Angeles, as reported by CNET. A number of individuals spotted the vehicle on its maiden voyage down the 405 — frankly, how do you not spot it? — but it seems like the electric pickup truck got the most attention when he pulled into an upscale sushi restaurant for dinner. One lucky valet got the opportunity to park it, and proceeded to plant the vehicle right in the center of the parking lot, so everyone could get a nice look-see. 

Unfortunately, this triumphant display was overshadowed by the fact that when Musk sped away from the parking lot, seemingly running right through a red traffic light, he struck a large plastic traffic pylon with his back wheel, knocking it flat. Ouch. This collision with something that — as social media users pointed out — was the size of a small child didn't play well with critics. Other observers also noticed a great deal of body roll as the vehicle turned the corner, which is undesirable in pickup trucks. Luckily, the Cybertruck is still a prototype ... but hey, maybe adding some rear view mirrors is a good idea, actually? 

Is Tesla's Cybertruck paving the way for the future?

Okay, so here comes the big question: is all this Cybertruck hubbub just a flash in the pan? Or, in a decade's time, will America's highways be filled with Blade Runner vehicles? Either way, electric trucks are going to dominate the future. Even Ford, the king of conventionality, is shooting to get a hybrid F-150 out within the next year, according to the New York Times. There's also Rivian, a startup electric truck company based out of Plymouth, Michigan, which is set to give Tesla a run for their money, thanks to wealthy backers like Amazon. Then, you have General Motors, the dusty old giant, who says they'll have electric trucks on sale by 2021. According to GM spokesman Jim Cain, "Electrification is the future. Our commitment to it is massive, and we intend to help lead that push."

If the Cybertruck proves successful, though, it could forever redefine the very concept of trucks, altogether. That's probably the whole intent, as Teslarati tells it. It's easy to imagine Tesla's audacity, in regard to breaking all the rules of truck design, inspiring other companies to push the status quo in weirder and wilder ways, to the point where the world's parking lots might look like something Gene Rodenberry would dream up. So yes, the Cybertruck looks strange today, and yes, people are laughing. Don't forget, though, there was a time when everyone thought the iPhone was a stupid concept. 

Stay tuned, folks.