Originally revealed in 2019, the Tesla Cybertruck goes against all modern understanding of what a truck actually is. In fact, the far-out physical appearance of this vehicle is so abnormal, it’s astounding and seems like Elon Musk is trolling the world. That really is the only logical conclusion that most held until you start to understand several basic principles around which the Tesla Cybertruck is designed.
So, why does the Tesla Cybertruck look the way it does? The short answer is, and this comes directly from Tesla’s Chief Designer, Franz von Holzhausen, that the vehicle form is following the vehicle function. Telsa’s goal with the Cybertruck was to reimagine what a truck could be. Tesla didn’t want to simply build an EV truck and capture some market share. Tesla has intended to completely revolutionize the way trucks are built and construct the strongest, lightest, most durable, most powerful, most versatile, most efficient, most cost-effective, and longest-lasting truck possible.
That’s a tall order. For more than sixty years, mass-produced trucks share the same basic look and purpose. Something along the lines of cab, iron, and cargo bed. The modern trucks of today have become less about being cargo-hauling and more about luxurious comforts with high-end amenities. Tesla aims to change that with their Cybertruck and the odd futuristic-looking exterior is part of the package.
Why Is The Tesla Cybertruck Metal Finish Like A Spaceship?
The long answer to why the Tesla Cybertruck looks the way it does has to do with the material from which the vehicle is made. Tesla has confirmed the Cybertruck body is made with 1/8-inch thick 300-series cold-rolled stainless steel. This is a very unique material for an automobile but not totally unprecedented. Remember the DeLorean from the 1980s? That funky little sports car’s body panels were significantly thinner, whereas the Cybertruck body is running about 4 millimeters thick. This makes sense because it is a truck designed to do truck things.
Because of the stainless steel material and its resilient anti-corrosion properties, the Cybertruck does not require any paint finish to protect the raw metal. This shortens long and complicated production times and reduces overall vehicle costs. Also, no paint significantly shaves down the weight as well.
But why so thick? That would just make it super heavy, right? At the Cybertruck launch event, Chief Designer, Franz von Holzhausen used a big sledgehammer to pound away on the door, with no residual damage, demonstrating just how strong the panel was. Withstanding a couple of swings from a hammer is one thing, but Elon even touts the hardened panels “as literally bulletproof.”
Why Does The Tesla Cybertruck Look The Way It Does?
Most of the Tesla vehicles leading up to the Cybertruck look appealing—as a modern vehicle should. The Cybertruck on the other hand is just cold, crude, and blocky. It has me and many others reminiscing about the old kindergarten days attempting to draw a car with a crayon, and here is the reason why.
A sheet of thick cold-rolled steel like what Tesla has chosen for the Cybertruck simply can’t be stamped or shaped into a regular curvacious automotive body panel. The only way to retain the body thickness and achieve the panel manipulation is to score the metal and form the desired shape with a press brake. This process effectively folds the metal. The end result is a durable panel that holds the programmed shape and desired angles.
The Cybertruck material selection simply did not allow for any curves. So from the get-go, Tesla determined the form was going to follow the function. So, super thick and ultra-durable body panels, but why a triangle?
What Is The Deal With The Tesla Cybertruck Shape?
The Tesla Cybertruck presents a most striking feature. Obviously, the body is long, wide, and pointy, to the extent the side profile peaks out as a triangle. There are a few considerations involved here but it all boils down to structural engineering. It just so happens that the triangle holds very strong geometric properties. Think about it, we see industrial architecture using triangle-shaped trussing on bridges and other structures that need to hold massive loads. The triangle simplifies construction and is verifiably robust.
Another reason is weight savings. A typical pickup truck uses what is referred to as a body-on-frame design. The frame is the primary structure of the truck and could be referred to as the skeleton chassis. The chassis carries the truck cab body and the truck bed cargo box. Both the cab and the box do not contribute to the chassis’s structural integrity. In fact, these necessary components do nothing to increase payload capacity and, more or less, are dead weight that needs to be hauled around.
Tesla’s re-imagined truck blueprint calls for an exoskeleton unibody chassis which is how most modern vehicles are commonly made. But not trucks! No, even modern trucks use the old proven body-on-frame design. The Cybertruck is very different and gains an impressive load capacity through its super-strength exoskeleton body and of course the EV structural battery pack brick.
It all zeros down to the concept of form following function and the product of the principle design’s first thought process.
Purpose Built To Be A Game Changer, But When Will It Actually Be Built?
Tesla has delayed the Cybertruck at least twice, but 2023 promises to be more fruitful. Overcoming material shortages was an initial challenge but they have claimed to have been resolved at this point. The Giga Texas manufacturing plant is gearing up to start production, as of this writing, in 2023 Q1 and hopes to make deliveries beginning this summer. Mass production will not roll out until 2024, when Tesla aims to produce as many as 200,000 units in the first year. The volume will ramp up significantly after that and with good reason. When the Cybertruck reservations opened, Tesla rallied over 1.5 million deposits by the end of 2022.
Apparently, Elon has convinced the masses that his disruptive Cybertruck will be a practical vehicle with many useful applications. What do you think about this odd futuristic-looking vehicle? Perhaps the Cybertruck is simply the first train to arrive at the station and the future is now.
Images featured are courtesy of Tesla, Inc.