What’s the next big thing for electric vehicles? Probably pickup trucks. Ford is doing it and so are startups like Rivian. But Elon Musk isn’t about to be outdone, and tonight at the Tesla Design Center in Los Angeles, the electric automaker unveiled something truly different.
Maybe even too different, depending on how it looks when it eventually enters production. What Musk showed off tonight was arguably Tesla’s most radical product to date, a truck design that looks more DeLorean than Silverado—and was unveiled amid a couple of onstage mishaps.
Tesla chose to unveil this here and now because Musk loves Blade Runner. And to date, he’s made some wild claims about what it can do: out-truck a Ford F-150, outperform a Porsche 911, be “literally bulletproof” and ideally start under $50,000. It’s also “the official truck of Mars.”
The man’s a lot of things, but modest isn’t one of them.
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“Trucks have been the same for a very long time,” Musk said tonight. “We wanted to show you something different... and we need sustainable energy now.”
The truck absolutely looks like something out of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi noir classic, too. It’s utilitarian to a fault, angular, brutal. It does, in fact, look like it was designed more for space exploration than trips to the mall. The Cybertruck isn’t what anyone would call beautiful, but it absolutely stands out.
At first glance it felt more like kit car or a concept than an actual truck you can buy—made of stainless steel, said to be resistant to hammer blows and even bullets. It’s a unibody truck, too, just like a Honda Ridgeline. No frame here. Motor Trend says the only color it will come in is silver, but you can get a vinyl wrap if you like.
Musk said the glass is impact-resistant, but this was clearly proven false during a dismal demonstration on stage. “We’ll fix it in post,” he said.
Anyway, here are the alleged specs: a 14,000-pound tow claim, a 3,500-pound payload claim, three ranges (200 miles, 300 miles and 500 miles), adaptive air suspension and a base price of $39,900 for the rear-wheel drive single-motor version. The max range version, with all-wheel drive and three electric motors, is said to be $69,900.
Production is said to be coming in late 2021, and the tri-motor version is happening in 2022, Musk said.
For the most part, this has been a pretty good year for Tesla. The third quarter was profitable, the critical Shanghai Gigafactory started producing cars, the Model Y crossover was unveiled and despite not really being $35,000 as promised, the Model 3 sedan is doing well. But Tesla has to keep the momentum going somehow. A truck of some sort would be a crucial part of the portfolio, and a chance to take the fight to competitors in a whole new way.
Then again, as with anything Tesla, some skepticism is justified. We’re still waiting on the Semi, the new Roadster and widespread adoption of the Solar Roof, to name a few.
And after watching this presentation—much of which felt awkward and rather half-baked—I was left wondering one thing: What did I just watch? Is Musk for real, or were we all just taken for a ride?
Even by Tesla standards, this one’s a leap. We’ll see if Musk proves us wrong, I guess. But if you saw that and were left scratching your head, I think it merely means you are still sane.