The Tesla Cybertruck is perhaps the boldest electric vehicle from the company since the original Roadster.
When CEO Elon Musk unveiled the truck at the Tesla Design Studio in Hawthorne, California, he charted a new course for the company's vehicles with a polygon design that wouldn't look out of place in a '90s-era video game. He also made good on a promise to deliver three vehicles for the mass market, a strategy that also covered the Model 3 and Model Y.
“Welcome to the Cybertruck unveil,” Musk said, triumphantly lifting his arms above his head, during the November 2019 unveiling.
Let’s talk about that design: Four lines dominate the vehicle. The front, the windshield, a slope toward the back, and the rear. That is essentially Cybertruck. It’s ugly, but it's future ugly. And like every Tesla vehicle that has been released to date, it’s an absolute curiosity, inside and out.
Since the launch, Musk has ratcheted up the hype by cruising around the streets of California. During a February 2020 earnings call, four months after the reveal, Musk made a bold claim about initial pre-orders: "We've never seen this level of demand."
Tesla Cybertruck features
Its body, made from that stainless steel alloy, also boasts a 100 cubic feet of lockable storage in the bed and a 6.5” length. It carries up to 3,500 pounds and can tow 14,000 pounds. It goes 0-60 in 2.9 seconds and does the quarter-mile in 10.8 seconds. It has 16-inch clearance and “adaptive air suspension” to handle various cargo weights. Oh, and it houses outlets for both 110-volt and 240-volt power.
Its angular design, Musk later revealed, comes from the fact it uses ultra-hard 30X steel. Where regular hot-rolled steel is rolled at a temperature measuring over 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit, this steel is further processed in cold reduction mills to make it even stronger. That means the company can't stamp the panels, Musk explained, as it would "break the stamping process...even bending it requires a deep score on inside of bend, which is how the prototype was made."
The least-interesting thing about Teslas, in 2019, is that they are electric cars.
Musk revealed more details about the truck in the months after the launch:
- The car will pump the HVAC to the rear bed while the tonneau cover is closed.
- The rear will likely be accessible from the second row of seats.
- A "partial" Bioweapon Defense System, used to filter the air, is expected to be included.
- Tesla is aiming for a best-case drag coefficient of 0.30 – "insane for a truck."
- The truck will offer the option to add solar panels to the rear, boosting range by 15 miles per day. A fold-out version could raise that figure to 40.
Tesla Cybertruck price
The base price – $39,900 – caused the live audience to gasp and then cheer. “You can order right now if you’d like,” Musk said, before dropping the URL:
The truck comes in three editions:
- A $39,900 single-motor rear-wheel drive with over 250 miles of range, over 7,500 pounds of towing capacity, and 0 to 60 mph in less than 6.5 seconds. Musk revealed that, as of November 23, 17 percent of buyers had opted for this model.
- A $49,900 dual-motor all-wheel-drive with over 300 miles of range, over 10,000 pounds of towing capacity, and 0 to 60 mph in less than 4.5 seconds. As of November 23, 42 percent of buyers had opted for this model.
- A $69,900 tri-motor all-wheel drive with over 500 miles of range, over 14,000 pounds of towing capacity, and 0 to 60 mph in less than 2.9 seconds. As of November 23, 43 percent of buyers had opted for this model.
Full self-driving is an extra $7,000 for all configurations.
Tesla Cybertruck release date
Production on the truck will begin in late 2021, with the tri-motor all-wheel-drive version going into production a year later, in late 2022. It might take a bit longer to reach consumers though, as Musk explained in the February earnings call that "demand is just far more than we could reasonably make in the space of, I don't know, three or four years."
Tesla goes after Ford
During the November unveiling, Musk took several shots at Ford — maker of the F-150, the best-selling truck in America. A member of his team hit a Ford truck door with a sledgehammer during a comparison test; Musk showed a video of the Cybertruck towing a Ford in a tug-of-war; he knocked “Built Ford Tough” slogan when he said, “If you want a truck that’s really tough — not fake tough — you want a truck you can take a sledgehammer to, doesn’t scratch, won’t dent…” The Ford F-150 has beat the Tesla in one area though—base price. It is about $28,500, but goes up considerably with options.
Musk did note at the top of his presentation that there was a bigger reason for making a pickup truck, more than an homage to dark sci-fi and an excuse to wear a lot of leather. After all, more than 1.5 million pickup trucks were sold in 2019, a screen behind him informed the audience.
“We need sustainable energy now. If we don’t have pickup truck, we don’t solve it. So I present to you the Cybertruck.”
The Tesla ATV
The “one more thing” moment at the Cybertruck event was the introduction of a Tesla ATV, which was driven onto the stage and into the bed of the truck, where it was plugged in and charged from the truck.
The ATV was later named in press materials as the "Cyberquad." It's a two-person electric vehicle that will ship as an optional extra with the Cybertruck. Little else is known at this stage, but eagle-eyed fans have spotted similarities with the Yamaha 700 Raptor ATV. Yamaha has denied any affiliation.
While it's a whole new space for Tesla, competitors seem unfazed by the idea the company may soon disrupt another industry. A representative from DDR, an Ohio-based electric ATV manufacturer, described the Cyberquad's design as "8-bit" to Inverse.
On the ground at the event, there were several cars from classic sci-fi movies, including the Spinner police car from Blade Runner (1982) and the DeLorean from the Back to the Future films.
Following the launch, Musk has played up to the futuristic design. He's suggested the truck could fly on the SpaceX Starship, the rocket designed to send humans to Mars. He's also declared that the "Cybertruck (pressurized edition) will be official truck of Mars," perhaps forming the first vehicle for the city expected to take shape in 2050.
Musk has talked about the Tesla pickup for years.
“I can’t talk about the details, but it’s gonna be like a really futuristic-like cyberpunk, Blade Runner pickup truck,” Musk said in a November 2018 interview. “It’s gonna be awesome, it’s gonna be amazing. This will be heart-stopping. It stops my heart. It’s like, oh, it’s great.”
A few hours before the unveiling, Musk tweeted that the design was influenced partly by The Spy Who Loved Me, the 1977 James Bond film with a car that turns into a submarine. He also joked (maybe) that the pressurized edition of the truck would be the “official truck of Mars.”
Musk even went as far as to say that “I actually don’t know if a lot of people will buy this pickup truck or not, but I don’t care,” before adding that “I do care, eventually” as “we wanna get gasoline, diesel pickup trucks off the road.”
Based on the company’s 2016 master plan, the truck can be seen as the third step in a three-part plan to transform Tesla from a premium automaker to a mass-market manufacturer. That started with the Tesla Model 3, a sedan that entered production in July 2017 and starts at $35,000. It continues with the Tesla Model Y, a compact SUV expected to hit roads next summer starting at $39,000. Although it’s expected to have limited appeal compared to these other two, the Cybertruck was listed as the final piece of the proverbial puzzle.
“Cybertruck doesn’t look like anything I’ve seen bouncing around the Internet,” Musk declared in January 2020. “It’s closer to an armored personnel carrier from the future.”
Abbreviated Tesla pickup hype timeline