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Tesla releases Cybertruck to mixed reviews

By Ishita Moghe, December 10 2019—

In March of 2019, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk tweeted “Personally, I’m most excited by the Tesla Truck. Maybe it will be too futuristic for most people, but I love it.” Despite the warning, viewers were shocked on Nov. 21 as he revealed the futuristic, angular truck, which loosely resembles an isosceles triangle on wheels. The most atypical feature is the 301 stainless-steel truck body — the same steel alloy that SpaceX developed for their upcoming Starship rocket. To demonstrate the strength of this alloy, chief designer Franz von Holzhausen swung a sledgehammer at the Cybertruck prototype.

The sledgehammer bounced off without leaving a mark. Musk added that the stainless steel is bulletproof to a 9mm handgun. However, things took a sour turn when it came time to demonstrate the strength of the “Tesla armored glass” used in the Cybertruck. Holzhausen, with Musk’s encouragement, threw a 1kg metal ball at the driver side window of the Cybertruck, instantly cracking it. Insisting it should have simply bounced off, Holzhausen turned to the rear window and threw the ball again to the same effect. Many Tesla enthusiasts hoped Musk’s reveal was a joke, and the flat stainless-steel panels would drop away to reveal a truck body more in line with Tesla’s usual sleek design. It seems, however, that the stainless steel Cybertruck is here to stay. In response to the reveal, Tesla stocks dropped over six per cent in a single day as investors distanced themselves from the company. 

Although the Cybertruck unveiling left a lot to be desired, the capability of the truck cannot be overlooked. Three variants of the Cybertruck were released — the single-motor base model starts at $39,900 with a towing capacity of 7,500 pounds and 250 miles of range. The dual-motor model starts at $49,900, with a 10,000-pound capacity and 300-mile range. The final model, the tri-motor, will start at $69,900, boasting a 14,000-pound towing capacity and 500-mile range. The tri-motor variant will have the lowest cost per mile of range of any vehicle in Tesla’s lineup, and will accelerate from 0–60 in just 2.9 seconds. 

The single motor Cybertruck will be $6,000 cheaper than a Ford F-150 with similar peak torque, seating and towing capacity. The price difference is further increased by the low cost of ownership of electric cars — maintenance and fuel are cheaper. The reason the Cybertruck can be sold at such a low price is because Tesla will be folding the metal into shape like origami, instead of using traditional machine stamping. Creating soft curves is impossible with this technique, which explains the sharp corners of the Cybertruck. This method, known as the “XY design” has been known for 20–30 years, but Tesla is the first automobile manufacturer to attempt this angular vehicle design.

The unique design of the Cybertruck leads to unique safety concerns. The hard steel exoskeleton is perfect defense against scratches, rust and dents — however, modern cars are required to have a crumple zone to protect passengers in a high energy collision. It is unclear how this hard shell of steel would fare in such a situation. In addition, the Tesla armored glass is a form of laminated glass, which means that it will crack and hold form, instead of shattering like traditional automotive glass. This may make it difficult for emergency responders to remove someone from the vehicle in the case of an accident. Tesla has not commented on these safety concerns, however their lineup of cars have all scored perfect 5-star safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Tesla’s top-selling Model 3 has the lowest probability of injury of any vehicle ever tested.

The Cybertruck wins out on functionality and cost when compared to any other truck on the market today. Its triangular design and unpainted stainless steel exterior is polarizing, however the remarkable capabilities of the vehicle make it attractive nonetheless. Just three days after the release event, Musk tweeted that Tesla had received an impressive 200,000 pre-orders for the Cybertruck, but we will have to wait until production begins in late 2021 to find out how many follow through on their orders.

This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.

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