We’ve now seen the Cybertruck, and the world is still trying to reassemble the pieces their brains while trying to process what they just saw.
The knee jerk reaction to this event seems to be two things:
- WTF? Is that a truck? It looks bizare…
- Did the guy who desiged the truck just break both the windows onstage?
The Broken Window Demo
I thought this was absolutely hilarious. While this kind of demo gone wrong may seem embarassing to your typical CEO-in-a-suit, the moment quickly became a viral meme. Whether you hate Tesla or love Tesla, there’s no way not to laugh at that moment and share it: The first time the truck is shown to the world, Franz just breaks both of the visible windows and they have to continue the presentation with the windows broken for the rest of the unveil. As if the design of the truck wasn’t abusrd enough, this moment brought it solidly into meme level absurdity. While unfortunate, it generated billions of dollars of free marketing. It couldn’t have gone any better.
There may be some issues that need to be worked out before production, but the other demos and the fact that they were even willing to attempt this on stage lead me to believe that the glass and truck will be very durable. While people will focus on this moment more than anything, ultimately it doesn’t mean much.
As for the truck’s appearance, I think it’s genius. Yes, it’s groundbreaking and completely out there and that will turn a lot of people off –– but that’s okay. This truck isn’t different for the sake of being different, it’s different for the sake of being better. Form follows function follows production.
Almost everone who sees this truck will have the same first reaction: That is the uggliest truck I’ve ever seen in my life. This is a common reaction to a groundbreaking design, and this sentiment should not be taken as a reason not to break new ground.
The more you look at the Cybertuck, the more you realize it’s kind of sexy. By the time it ships, millions of people will be in love with it. Many people will hate it for being different, but many more will love it for those very same differences.
I went into the event thinking there was no way I was going to order a Cybertruck. But I ended up ordering one before I left –– not because of what it looked like, but because of what the truck could do.
Regardless, these initial reactions don’t really matter at all in the grand scheme of things. First impressions are almost always entirely wrong. Here are the five most important things we learned about the Cybertruck that will actually matter:
1. Same Price as a Model 3 or F-150
By far the most significant news from the event was the starting price. The Cybertruck will have the same price and range as Model 3 today, bringing the total cost of ownership similar to a Model 3 or F-150.
This was a huge shocker –– people were generally expecting the Cybertruck to start around $50,000. Not $39,900.
This is the news that should be turning investors’ heads. Before now the thinking was: “Okay, Tesla will probably come out with a cool truck but no matter how cool it is they won’t be able to compete with gas powered pickups on price”.
That line of thinking has now been shattered. The Cybertruck will be as affordable or cheaper than any gas powered truck. When you factor in savings from fuel and maintenance, Cybertruck’s starting price is closer to $25,000 –– and that’s before factoring in any incentives, state rebates, or other EV adoption programs that may exist in the future.
Anyone considering a pickup truck can afford to consider a Cybertruck instead. In some places buying a Cybertruck may be much more affordable than an F-150.
2. Designed for Production
One big question about the Cybertruck was always: How and where is Tesla going to make it? Tesla now has the unreleased Roadster, Semi, Model Y, and Cybertruck to produce and deliver to customers.
How is it going to produce all of those vehicles while still remaining profitable? How are they going to deliver them in any reasonable amount of time? This was a big question investors had going into the event. It’s also a big question for customers, who want the car delivered as soon as possible.
As the experts at Motortrend noted, the design of the truck will allow Tesla to produce and bring the product to market much faster.
Because the truck is made of stainless steel (with silver and black options available) you can manufacture the car without a paint shop or a lot of expensive tooling. One estimate I saw said that building additional paint shop capacity for the Cybertruck would have cost $200 million and a lot of time to setup –– Tesla can skip that now, and every time they put a car together they don’t have to paint it.
It might seem like a small thing, but this is hugely significant in terms of both bringing the car to market as fast as possible, but also producing the car in high volume with minimal capex and time to ramp. And not only is stainless steel more capital efficient, it’s also better for the environment.
Tesla isn’t repeating the same manufacturing mistakes they made in the past. They’re learning from them, and I’m very excited to see how that plays out. The best service is no service. The best paint shop is no paint shop.
3. The Exoskeleton
Part of the drawback of using Stainless steel is that the strength to weight ratio is different and so you have to use a lot thicker walls to acheive similar strength, which adds weight to the car.
Tesla did something really innovative to get around this. Rather than using a typcial body-on-frame method they designed an exoskeleton where the outside of the car actually serves as the structural frame. That’s why the car is the shape it is: it’s “a weight efficient trussed bridge in it’s simplest load-spreading configuration: a triangle set on it’s hypoteneuse“.
This isn’t just some random design. The truck looks the way it is to help Tesla ship it as fast as possble, while acheving specs nobody else can acheive. Because the exterior of the car serves as the structural frame rather than just being useless extra cargo, Tesla can dramatically reduce weight, increase range, and improve acceleration among other benefits in capital efficiency and production costs.
Did I mention this is the same stuff they’re making Starship out of?
4. The Specs
Are you kidding me? 0 – 60 in under 3 seconds? A range of up to 500 miles –– the highest ever in a Tesla? Autopilot standard, full self driving capable? We knew it was going to be impressive, but this really opens up the imagination.
This vehicle will be able to ship goods and people autonomously between LA and San Francisco on a single charge. It has power outlets on board to run equipment or tools. When you think about what this product can do, a lot of people are going to want to buy one who never would have considered an F-150.
Compare the Cybertruck to other electric pickups, and you start to see why this design makes a lot of sense.
5. The New UI
This was somewhat under the radar, but Tesla unveiled a UI re-design for their OS. I don’t think this will just be for Cybertruck –– S, X & 3 should all expect this new UI as well. Personally I like it a lot.
There are some big questions remaining, and the biggest is the release date. Based on what we’re learning about the design and materials, I think they are keeping this quiet on purpose because they are hoping to ship it a lot sonner than people think. What if they were able to ship the Cybertruck in late 2020 or 2021? I think this is more likely than a lot of people think.
As of writing, Tesla has received 146,000 Cybertruck orders: