So Tesla just showed off it’s new Tesla Cybertruck to the world, and just like I said in my Tesla Truck prediction video, it’s definitely going to get a lot of attention … for good … and bad. Let’s take a look at the specs and features to see how it stacks up to the competition. And let’s … uh … talk about those looks.
I’m sure a lot of you watched the live stream just like I did. And I’m also sure a lot of you have some pretty strong opinions on the looks of the truck and how the event went off, but I want to put that to the side for a minute. I think it’s important to put the aesthetics and showmanship to the side, so that we take an objective view of the features, specs, and price … and how it compares to the competition. But … I’ll get to the looks and the event after that, as well as my unscientific Twitter poll I put out there asking who was interested in buying it before and after the event.
To kick this off, let’s take a look at the specs of the best selling truck on the market, the Ford F-150. There’s more trim variations than Tesla’s offering, so let’s just look at the top and low end of the range to get a sense for where everything falls. From the 2019 spec sheet:
On the low end:
- Price: $28,155 MSRP
- Payload: 1,990 lbs or 902 kg
- Towing: 7,700 lbs or 3,492 kg
- 20 – 22 mpg (combined 4×2 and 4×4)
On the high end:
- Price: $67,135 MSRP
- Payload: 3,230 lbs or 1464 kg
- Towing: 13,200 lbs or 5,987 kg
- 21 – 19 mpg (combined 4×2 and 4×4)
And depending on what variant you buy, you can get truck beds from 5.5’ to 8’. All of their trucks are made from an aluminum alloy on top of a steel frame.
I think that does a good job of setting the table and giving context to what Tesla announced with the Cybertruck. From Ryan McCaffery’s Ride the Lightning interview we knew that Elon was targeting $49,000 or less.
“We don’t want it to be really expensive. I think it’s got to start at less than $50,000 it’s got to be like $49,000 max. Ideally less.” – Elon Musk “You just made a lot of people happy by saying that.” – Ryan McCaffrey “It just can’t be unaffordable. It’s gotta be something that’s affordable. So … there will be versions that are more expensive, but you’ve gotta be able to get a really great truck for $49,000 or less.” – Elon Musk
We also knew that it would have at least a dual motor design^1, as well as some crazy specs to compete with the F-150. What we got on price shocked me, and is probably the most impressive part of the announcement overall. For the three variants:
- Price: $39,900
- Payload: 3,500 lbs or 1587 kg
- Towing: 7,500 lbs or 3,400 kg
- Range: 250 miles or 402 km
- Price: $49,900
- Payload: 3,500 lbs or 1587 kg
- Towing: 10,000 lbs or 4,535 kg
- Range: 300 miles or 482 km
- Price: $69,900
- Payload: 3,500 lbs or 1587 kg
- Towing: 14,000 lbs or 6,350 kg
- Range 500 miles or 804 km
When he announced the starting price I actually yelled out something I can’t repeat on this video. I’m really impressed, and shocked, that they were able to come in $10,000 less than what was expected.
And the towing and truck bed capabilities are very competitive with the F-150. The low end models differ in price by about $10,000, but the high end models only differ by less than $3,000. And as we all know, electric vehicles are much cheaper to operate and maintain. With very low MPG that we see in trucks like the F-150, it’s not hard to see how much potential savings there is between charging your truck vs. filling a fuel tank with gas. With the yearly maintenance savings, Tesla’s truck should be cheaper to own and use than a comparable F-150.
But there was something that really caught my eye from the livestream.
“So it will obviously have access to all Superchargers. It will be capable of more than 250 kW. We’ll actually be revealing more about that later.”
Tesla hasn’t provided any specs on the battery kW capacities for the Cybertruck, and with the comment that, “we’ll actually be revealing more about that later,” it’s clear there’s some bigger news there. My guess is that it’s related to the battery pack itself. Tesla has a battery and power train event planned for early next year, where they’re expected to be announcing some major advancements in their battery technology. That event is shaping up to be a potential bombshell of news. I’m anticipating that we’ll be finding out how the Maxwell Technologies acquisition will be paying off for the company, as well as finding out what advancements Jeff Dahn and his team have been working on at Dalhousie University. Longer lasting, more resilient, and cheaper battery packs are the key to EVs reaching price parity with gasoline cars. Hitting $100 per kWh in a battery is considered the turning point, and we may see companies like Tesla passing that point soon.
But where the Cybertruck really starts to pull away from the F-150 on specs is the body construction and glass. Instead of using a body on frame construction, like most pickup trucks, they’ve opted for exoskeleton, or unibody, design. That type of design is more rigid and gives a lot of other benefits, like reducing weight, reducing cost of materials, and maximizing space. And Tesla is taking advantage of those optimizations to use a heavier material like their cold-rolled stainless steel, which was designed for use on the Space X Starship, with an obvious advantage over aluminum.
And much like Sean Mitchell predicted, and I was thinking along the same lines, the glass is Tesla’s Armor Glass. But this is where the onstage demo took a really weird and unfortunate turn. I’m not sure why they felt the need to throw the metal ball at the truck after the magic-show like demo of the bearings being dropped on the panes of glass. As I expected after seeing that last night, most of the news coverage is about the broken glass and not the truck itself.
Putting that aside for the moment, the armor glass should be much more durable than standard glass. Transparent aluminum is a real thing and is used in bullet proof glass, so Tesla’s Armor Glass should prove to be beneficial for use on both the Cybertruck and Semi. It’s just a shame that the demo played out like it did.
And finally the onboard 120v/220v outlets and air compressor really give the Cybertruck a utility that no other truck on the market can match. Add to that the adaptive air suspension system that automatically adapts to what you’re carrying and doing. As well as the insane amount of storage available in the frunk, cabin, and even a small area under the truck bed. Not to mention the insane speed this is capable of, which is better than a lot of sports cars out there. How many trucks do you know that can go 0-60 in 2.9 seconds? Elon lived up to his word on those promises.
Okay … like I promised … we’re circling back to the look of the truck and some of the design details. To quote myself from my truck prediction video:
“No matter what, it sounds like this truck is most likely going to be divisive for looks, which got me wondering, who is this truck for?”
”Regardless of who the intended audience is for the Tesla Pickup Truck, it’s definitely going to get a lot of attention when it’s announced shortly. “
Yep. I mean … just look at it. This is a truck that you’re either going to love or hate. There’s no middle ground with this one. It looks like something that drove off a science fiction movie set and not something that you’d see coming to market from a car company. And that’s kind of why I love it. I’m a UI designer and have been doing UI, UX, graphic design, and art my entire life. I look at this and see something that came from a place of passion, something that really resonated with Elon, Franz, and the rest of the Tesla team. It’s bold. It’s out there. And for that I love it. It’s great to have someone pushing the boundaries and trying to rethink what a truck can be. The opening of the presentation illustrated that really well by running through almost 100 years of truck design. It’s pretty much unchanged.
The reason I wanted to put off my thoughts on the design of the truck after the specs and competition was because of how divisive this design is. It’s easy to look at it, say it’s ugly, and then write off the truck completely. But when you look at what functionality this truck is bringing to the table, and how well it stacks up against the competition, you can’t just write it off.
I got texts and messages from friends and viewers that have fallen into two camps. “I love it” and “I want one.” Or, “It’s so ugly.” Well, I fall into the I love it bucket. As soon as it drove onto stage my first two thoughts were about the DeLorean and the Lotus Esprit S1 from the James Bond film, “The Spy Who Loved Me.” Both were movies that left an impression on me as a kid. And it made me so happy to see that the Lotus was an inspiration when Elon tweeted about a few hours after the event.
And I mean … just look at how the truck bed cover works. That’s so clever.
But how are people reacting to it? Well, I did a very unscientific Twitter poll before and after the event to try and gauge everyone’s snap judgement. Before the event:
“While we wait for the unveiling … who’s planning on getting the Tesla Cybertruck (sight unseen)?”
- Yes – 20%
- Waiting to see it – 48%
- No, don’t want a truck – 32%
I took that snapshot right as the event started. After the event I asked if people actually wanted one:
“After the Tesla Cybertruck reveal, do you want one?”
- Yes – 49%
- Nope – 29%
- Don’t want a truck – 22%
It’s interesting that roughly half of people were waiting to see the event first. Even though it’s different people that took the survey before and after, roughly 20% of the waiting folks went over to a yes. In the end roughly 1/2 of people are interested vs. not interested. Cars like the DeLorean, and trucks like the Bollinger, are very opinionated designs. They’re made for a specific type of person. Art is subjective … not objective. So there should be plenty of people who will want to jump in and buy the Cybertruck. But even after the event, I’m still not sure who it’s actually for. It’s not clear to me if this truck will win over Ford, Dodge, or GM truck buyers, or if it’s going to pull in more non-truck people. People like myself. And I haven’t even touched on the EV truck competition, like Rivian, which is targeted at a higher end market, so it’s not completely apples to apples. The highest priced Cybertruck is cheaper than the lowest priced Rivian. I can’t wait to see how this unfolds over the next couple of years. And I still have a lot of thoughts that are still taking shape because this is so fresh.
If there was one area of the event I was disappointed in, aside from the broken glass, it was the lack of details. We don’t know the battery specs. We don’t know how towing capacity will affect the range. We don’t any details around safety. With that steel body, what’s going to happen to cars and trucks it hits in an accident? And what’s going to happen to it? I mean … are there crumple zones? And as much as I loved that they did a “one more thing” and revealed the Tesla ATV, why didn’t they provide any details on that? So many open questions, but I’m sure we’ll be seeing those details unfold over the coming months. There’s a lot to look forward to with this one.