Tesla’s Cybertruck: Did I Just Dream That?

I have vivid dreams. I woke up this morning just an instant before I hit the water, having been pushed or jumped out of an airplane hundreds of feet above the ocean. And I have recurring vivid dreams about wild and bizarre cars that can fly, among other things.

My first thought this morning after I awoke so abruptly was this: did I dream the Tesla Cybertruck reveal last night?

I anticipated this reveal unlike any other since I was a kid, as this was a perfectly kept secret, and all the speculations about it were decidedly off. And I feel rather like a kid again, because I have not encountered such a wild and extraordinary car since I first laid eyes on some of those incredible Italian concept cars of the late ’60s, like the  Lamborghini Marzal and so many others. Of course I was also familiar with the great dream cars of the ’50s and early ’60s from Detroit, but mostly only retrospectively.

But these were just that: dream cars, to keep us salivating for the next production car, even if they almost invariably didn’t live up to the concept. Nobody actually built dream cars, until now.

Unless Elon Musk has just pulled an early April Fool’s stunt, the Cybertruck is for real, to be available in late 2021, although I wouldn’t bet on that date, given how optimistic Musk’s timetables tend to be. But then Tesla did just build a complete functioning factory in China in under a year, a timetable that was roundly laughed at when announced.

The Cybertruck’s shape and design is the most polarizing thing that’s happened in the industry in quite a while. It was the top trending thing on Twitter last night, and the media became a geyser of feedback. A lot of it very negative. TSLA stock is down today. Understandably so: this truck is very much out of the ordinary, looking like it just landed on Earth from outer space.

Not surprising, as Musk is all about space travel, determined to send humans to Mars, and he launched his personal Tesla Roadster into space, where it’s still exploring the solar system with its dummy driver.

Musk has been talking about a Tesla pickup for almost seven years. Tesla even released this rendering of one hauling an F150 at an earlier event. It was clearly inspired by the Tesla Semi (which we’re still waiting for), and not to be taken too literally.

He did drop a lot of hints in more recent months, saying it was inspired by Blade Runner and armored troop carriers, among other things.

This resulted in an endless stream of renderings on the web. Amazingly, all of them are drastically more conservative than the real thing. That alone says a lot about just how far out the Cybertruck is. Nobody could imagine something like it as a real production truck, except Elon and Franz von Holzhausen, his chief designer since the Model S.

Finally, a few days before the reveal, Musk said that the Lotus Esprit S1, specifically the underwater sub version built for the James Bond “The Spy Who Loved Me”, was a key design influence.

Aha; the car that essentially defined the origami school of design. If you want to read more of the history of Giorgetto Giugiaro’s 1971 concept that led to the production Esprit, I happened to find one on the streets of Eugene and wrote it up here.

But if Musk had really wanted to hint at the Cybertruck’s Italian dream car inspiration, he would point to the Maserati Boomerang, which Giorgetto also designed and was shown along with the Esprit at the 1971 Turin Motor Show. Now there’s a dream car.

If someone can come up with a better example as to the Cybertruck’s inspiration, please share it. There’s others, undoubtedly. Except for the sharply peaked roof on the Cybertruck, I’m seeing a lot of influence here. But then I might be dreaming…

The Boomerang even looks a bit like it has a pickup bed at the rear. Did I imagine in my wildest dreams in 1971 that the Boomerang would inspire an electric pickup in 2019? Nope.

Speaking of pickup bed, the Cybertruck’s “vault”, which is 6.5′ long, is normally enclosed with its integral cover. This is undoubtedly a critical aspect of squeezing out maximum aerodynamic efficiency, which is always a top priority at Tesla. Obviously, its aerodynamics are going to be much worse than the slippery Tesla sedans, but I’m quite eager to find out what it is. Despite its apparent boxiness, I would be surprised if it isn’t significantly slipperier than the current production pickups, with that integral bed covering being a key aspect to that.

This morning Tesla announced that there will a solar panel option, which will add up to 15 miles of range, and that there might even be extendable panels that could add up to 30 miles or more. In sunny climes.

The interior is relatively more predictable, in terms of Tesla’s cars so far. Is that faux marble on the dash?

Here’s the vault fully exposed.

And loaded with an ATV, a job made easy with its integral load ramp and a variable height suspension. At full height, it has 16″ of clearance, more than any other pickup, real or proposed. It’s approach and departure angles of 35 and 28 degrees are unbeatable too.

How about a Cybertent? Tesla plans to offer these accessories. Plenty of electricity available for cooking and such.

The Cybertruck can tow too; up to 14,000lbs in the top tier three-motor version, and 10,000lbs in the two motor version, which will undoubtedly be the most common one. More on specs and pricing later.

But this is no typical Body-On-Frame (BOF) truck. It has a unibody, made from “ultra-hard 30X Cold-Rolled Stainless Steel”. Its skin durability was put to the test when von Holzhausen put to the test with a sledgehammer against its door. No dent. Before anyone starts in on that “real trucks” have separate frames, please note that a unibody can easily be stronger than BOF, it just limits the flexibility of different body configurations. And it appears that there will be just this one here.

Von Holzhausen’s test of the Cybertruck’s “Armor Glass” didn’t go as well. Remarkably, Musk gave him the go ahead to try a second time. Another shattered pane. Musk mostly took it in stride, except for dropping an F bomb. There’s plenty of time to flesh that out, along with a few other details, I’m guessing. Who knows how finished this prototype is? Previous Tesla reveal cars have been far from genuinely production ready.

If you missed the reveal, here’s a handy 5 minute edited version. Musk’s many talents do not include being a very effective presenter, and there was a somewhat cobbled-up vibe to this one. Or dream-like.

The second biggest shocker of the evening was when the pricing was announced. Musk had long said the Cybertruck would start at under $50k. But who would have thought it would be $10k under that? Yes, the base version, with single-motor RWD, 250+ mile range, and a 6.5 second 0-60 time is priced at a jaw-dropping $39,900.  That’s perhaps the insanest thing yet about this reveal.

Even this base version has to have a battery about as large as the 100kWh top of the line Model S, and yet it’s priced at just a few thousand more than the base Model 3. It’s hard to see how this is even possible. One wonders if the price will hold.

The two-motor AWD version, which will likely be the most common one, does 0-60 in under 4.5 seconds and has 300+ miles of range, and is priced at $49,900. And the tri-motor version will beat a Porsche 911 to 60, in under 2.9 seconds, and has a whopping 500+ mile range. It’s priced at $69,900.

Rivian’s RT1 EV pickup has a base price of $69,000. But it would take a mid-range Rivian with the optional 135kWh pack to roughly equal the two-motor Cybertruck. That’s probably going to be priced at about $80k. The Rivian does have four motors, which allows power to be vectored to each wheel individually. Its styling was polarizing when it came out…today it looks milquetoast tame.

This comparison shows just how shockingly cheap Tesla is pricing the Cybertruck.

The Bollinger B2 EV pickup, a rough-and-ready beast that now looks very tame compared to the Cybertruck, is priced at $125k, with 120kWh battery pack and some 200 miles of range. It has two motors and in-wheel portal gear hubs for massive 15″ of clearance. But as of today, that’s one inch less than the Cybertruck.

And of course Ford and Chevrolet have announced EV pickups too. All are arriving in roughly the same time period: about two years or so, give or take. It’s going to be the EV pickup shootout.

So the big question is how’s the Cybertruck going to be accepted and will it sell?

The answer to the first question is: it depends. Meaning folks are going to love it or hate it. That’s already the case. But there’s no doubt in my mind that while the Cybertruck will likely always be polarizing, the ratio of haters to lovers will tip to the latter over time. It always does, when something so new and different is dropped on folks. Humans largely are conservative and don’t do big change well. But look at how the Aztek has become an object of endearment. And a lot of other once-shocking cars. Folks will get used to it, mostly, eventually. Here at CC, where change does not come easy for most of our readers, it might be a while…

Will it sell? Sure. To the right folks, in moderate numbers. It’s not going to give Ford execs nightmares.

I’m going to recount an experience I had just a couple of days ago; it’s anecdotal, with its inherent limitations. But here goes:

I was parked at the curb in my xB, right next to the University of Oregon campus. There was an empty space behind me, and after a couple of minutes I saw an immaculately shiny Ford Raptor slowly pull in behind me, its giant grille blocking out everything else. I saw the door open and a mid-30s old mild-mannered and impeccably dressed Asian-American guy hopped down, and walked into a store. Probably an academic researcher or such. And his $70k Raptor almost certainly will never be despoiled in any dirt. He’d be a perfect candidate for a Cybertruck.

Let’s face it: big gnarly pickups are a hot item these days. Yes, I know that CC’s Jason Shafer will defend them eloquently for their multifold usefulness, but there’s no doubt an ever-larger percentage of them are being bought by city folks who most likely will not be using them to tow, haul or go off-roading. They’re a thing, now, and a mighty hot one at that.

I refuse to judge that; it is what it is. It is true that the growth of truck and SUV sales are now overshadowing the emission savings of EVs and hybrids. That’s not exactly a good thing, climatically speaking. So folks who care about that sort of thing may well be attracted to the Cybertruck, along with some of the other EV trucks coming.

But here’s the thing: depending on their socio-geographic-political orientation, if they’re “Tesla folks” they won’t likely be walking into a Ford dealership. And vice versa. That’s the increasing reality as all automotive brands increasingly are ever-more associated with the various tribes of our land.

Tesla bros are going to either love the Cybertruck from day one, or they’ll get used to it. Just don’t expect to see your contractor pull up in one. There’s a whole generation that grew up with Star Wars and has immersed itself in so many video games where the Cybertruck looks right at home.

As for me, I’m just blown away. In all my many years, never has anyone put something so uncompromising into production, and as a truck, no less. It took me about 30 seconds after it was first revealed last night to get over my incredulity, and then realize I was witnessing something highly extraordinary. That’s not say I want one, as I have no use for such a thing. But Elon Musk’s ability to keep blowing me away is utterly remarkable.

Musk is the kid that we’re all jealous of, because he’s getting to realize his toys (and doodlings) in full-size scale and turn his dreams of space travel into reality. He explicitly warned that some might not like the Cybertruck, and that it might limit its appeal; what other automaker CEO would feel that and still plow ahead, with zero compromises?

Love him or hate him, the automotive world is profoundly richer thanks to his endless appetite for risk and his ability to make his dreams come true. And in a world of look-alike cars and trucks, the Cybertruck is a very welcome addition to the streets. And no, I’m not dreaming.