Tesla Launches a Futuristic Electric Truck
Tesla just unveiled its first electric truck.
CEO Elon Musk showed off the new design at a launch event at the company's Design Studio in Hawthorne, California Thursday.
"We need sustainable energy now," Musk said, according to Reuters. "If we don't have a pickup truck, we can't solve it. The top 3 selling vehicles in America are pickup trucks. To solve sustainable energy, we have to have a pickup truck."
But some commentators questioned whether Tesla's new electric vehicle would attract traditional pickup buyers. Teslas and other electric vehicles tend to sell in the coastal U.S., while truck sales are highest in the Midwest, CNN pointed out. The overall electric truck market is not expected to be large in the near future, according to Reuters: tracking firm IHS Markit estimates electric trucks will only account for about 75,000 sales in 2026 compared to three million trucks sold total. (These estimates do not account for the Tesla model.)
Then there's the design of the truck itself, which is, as CNN described, far from traditional:
When the truck initially drove onto the stage, many in the crowd clearly couldn't believe that this was actually the vehicle they'd come to see. The Cybertruck looks like a large metal trapezoid on wheels, more like an art piece than a truck.
Instead of a distinctly separate cab and bed, the body appears to be a single form. The exterior is made from a newly developed stainless steel alloy, Musk said, the same metal that's used for SpaceX rockets.
The futuristic design may not appeal to typical truck lovers.
"It will be a niche product at best and poses no threat in the pickup market as we know it today," Kelley Blue Book senior managing editor Matt DeLorenzo told CNN.
However, fellow Kelley Blue Book employee executive publisher Karl Brauer thought the truck would appeal to a different market — fans of high tech.
"Everything from its styling to its drivetrain will be a major departure from standard pickup trucks," he said in a statement reported by The New York Times. "As a technology statement for tech-oriented professionals and fans, this truck's departures from the norm will be seen as assets, not liabilities."
Tesla announced three models at different prices: a $39,900 single-motor rear wheel drive, a $49,900 dual motor all wheel drive and a $69,900 tri-motor all wheel drive. The most expensive car will be able to tow 14,000 pounds and drive 500 miles before recharging. The cheapest model will be able to travel half that, according to CNN.
Production on the trucks is expected to begin in late 2021 and they are now available for order on the Tesla website, The New York Times reported.
The truck is also advertised as being especially resilient. Musk said its doors could resist a bullet from a nine millimeter handgun, and Tesla's chief designer Franz von Holzhausen hit them with a sledge hammer during the unveiling to prove their strength. They remained undented.
A test of the windows, however, did not go as well. When von Holzhausen threw a metal ball at the front and near left windows, they smashed.
Musk swore and then said, "Room for improvement," BBC News reported.
"It didn't go through, that's a plus side," Musk said further, according to BBC News. "We threw wrenches, we threw literally the kitchen sink at the glass and it didn't break. For some reason it broke now… I don't know why."
Jessica Caldwell of vehicle marketplace Edmunds told BBC News she thought the "fail" would overshadow the announcement of the new truck.
Tesla isn't the only company looking to make electric trucks in the coming years. Both General Motors and Ford plan to sell electric trucks by the end of 2021, according to Reuters. Ford also invested $500 million in a startup called Rivian, which plans to build electric trucks starting in the fall of 2020.
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