Elon Musk shatters stereotypes (and windows) with Tesla’s all-electric, edgy Cybertruck

Alan Boyle
Tesla CEO Elon Musk introduces the Cybertruck, which sported cracked windows after a demonstration of the truck’s toughness. “Don’t mind the glass,” Musk said. (Tesla via YouTube)

Amid clouds of smoke and “Blade Runner” hype, Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled a hard-edged, all-electric pickup truck that will cost as little as $39,900 and is due to hit the market by as early as 2021.

And then, with hundreds of fans cheering him on, Musk brought out one more thing during his laser-show presentation at Tesla’s design center in Los Angeles: an all-electric, all-terrain vehicle that rolled right into the Cybertruck’s bed for recharging from an onboard outlet.

There’s no sign that the ATV is for sale … yet … but Tesla is already taking refundable $100 deposits for the Cybertruck.

Cybertruck fills out an all-electric line of vehicles that also includes the Model S high-end sedan, the more affordable Model 3 sedan, the Model X SUV, the Model Y compact crossover SUV, the Roadster sports car and the heavy-duty Semi truck.

After months of promising that the Cybertruck would look like no other pickup truck that’s on the market today, Musk didn’t disappoint: The stainless-steel beast looks like something out of “Blade Runner,” a movie that Musk said served as his inspiration. (He also joked that the design was partly influenced by the submarine sports car from “The Spy Who Loved Me.”)

Tesla’s Cybertruck opens up to accommodate an ATV. (Tesla Photo)

“You want a truck that’s really tough, not fake tough?” Musk asked. To show how tough the truck is, Musk had car designer Franz von Holzhausen batter the driver-side door with a sledge hammer — without leaving a scratch. Musk said the truck body was made from the same ultra-hard alloy that’ll be used in SpaceX’s Starship super-rocket.

“It is literally bulletproof to a 9mm handgun,” he said.

Cybertruck’s windows are made of armor glass that’s way more durable than the usual stuff used for pickup trucks, but when von Holzhausen threw a metal ball at the driver-side window, the glass cracked into a shatter pattern.

“Well, maybe that was a little too hard,” Musk said, abashedly. “It didn’t go through. That’s the plus side.”

During pre-show tests, “we threw wrenches, we threw everything, we even literally threw the kitchen sink at the glass, and it didn’t break,” Musk said.

“For some weird reason, it broke now. I don’t know why. We’ll fix it in post,” he joked.

Musk took his audience — made up mostly of Tesla owners, VIPs and journalists — through the Cybertruck’s stats step by step:

  • Dimensions: 231.7 inches long, 79.8 inches wide, 75.8 inches high. The rear bed has 100 cubic feet of storage capacity. The cab seats six.
  • Range: 250 miles or more on a charge for the $39,900 single-motor, rear-wheel-drive model; 300 miles or more for the $49,900 dual-motor, all-wheel-drive model; and 500 miles or more for the $69,900 tri-motor, all-wheel-drive. (The tri-motor AWD is expected to go into production in late 2022.)
  • Speed and acceleration: 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds for single-motor RWD, with top speed of 110 mph. For the dual-motor AWD model, 0-60 in 4.5 seconds with 120 mph top speed. For the tri-motor AWD, 0-60 in 2.9 seconds with 130 mph top speed.
  • Payload capacity: 3,500 pounds.
  • Tow rating: 7,500 pounds for single-motor RWD. 10,000 pounds for dual-motor AWD. 14,000 pounds for tri-motor AWD.
  • Off-road performance: 35-degree approach angle, 28-degree departure angle, up to 16 inches clearance.

Beyond the numbers, Musk had other reasons to boast: The Cybertruck sports 110-volt and 220-volt onboard outlets, plus onboard air compression. He showed off videos in which Tesla’s pickup truck accelerated faster than a Porsche 911, and easily outdid a Ford F-150 in a tug of war. “It was uphill,” Musk cracked.

The self-driving capabilities of Autopilot will be available for a $7,000 charge.

After showing off the truck — and thrilling the crowd with his “one more thing” moment over the ATV — Musk invited attendees to go on test drives. “Don’t mind the glass,” he said.

The initial reviews were mixed. “Assuming this is really the electric pickup Tesla is going to build and not an elaborate prank, it is utterly unlike any of the upcoming electric-truck competition,” Car and Driver’s Eric Stafford wrote.

Hot Rod Magazine called it a “sci-fi train wreck that will get you all the attention you need, good and bad.”

Here are other impressions from Twitter:

The Cybertruck won’t have the all-electric pickup truck market to itself: Ford is planning to put an electric version of its workhorse F-150 on the market in 2021, and GM says it’ll have an all-electric truck ready to go in the same time frame. Today, Lordstown Motors announced that it’s taking $1,000 deposits for pre-orders of its $52,500 electric truck, due for availability in late 2020.

Another formidable competitor is Rivian, which is expected to start delivering its all-electric R1T pickup truck in late 2020, at a base price of $69,000. Amazon led a $700 million funding round for Rivian in February, and Ford and GM are investors as well. (Rivian will also be selling an all-electric SUV called the R1S.)

In September, Amazon announced that it was ordering 100,000 electric delivery vans from Rivian, for delivery starting in 2021, as part of the company’s campaign to reduce its carbon footprint and boost its use of renewable energy.

Update for 5:15 p.m. PT Nov. 22: The reviews from investors aren’t exactly glowing. Today Tesla’s share price plunged more than 6% to finish at $333.04. Analysts attributed the bearish outlook not so much to the shattered-window misfire, but to the view that mainstream truck buyers aren’t likely to go for the Cybertruck’s unconventional, un-utilitarian design. “I just think it’s going to be a bit of a bust,” CNBC’s Jim Cramer said. “I’m calling it the E-Edsel.”

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