In November 2019, Tesla revealed its Cybertruck amidst a lot of anticipation that turned into general shock and confusion. This weird, futuristic-looking, trapezoidal thing is a truck? As it turns out, next to the controversy over the F-150 tug-of-war challenge, that was the biggest question people were trying to answer.
Cybertruck is not a truck because it shares none of the traditional truck aesthetic or functional values. Cybertruck excels in many functions where trucks compete, such as:
- Hauling space in the bed
- Towing ability
In practice, Cybertruck’s ability to do these things is compromised by its design.
Cars match people’s identity. You could use the word, function, there, but what people do makes up who they are. And it is probably fair to say that no one has a more rigid identity than truck buyers. If it looks like a truck, drives like a truck, and hauls like a truck, it must be a truck: this does not hold true for the cybertruck. Keep reading to learn why the Cybertruck is not a truck.
Is the Cybertruck Really a Truck?
If the Cybertruck can function in all the ways a truck can then why does its looks mean it is not a truck? Because in the auto world looks matter:
- If you want a minivan, you do not search for something that looks like an SUV
- Similarly, you do not want your sports car to look like a minivan, no matter how tight it is on the turns
The Cybertruck may have some great features (and it does) that may actually blow your mind (and they will), but people who want to buy a truck, will not search for something that looks like it came from the Blade Runner set (which, given the Cybertruck’s inspiration, it kind of did).
You may be tempted to argue that the real value is in a car’s function, not appearance, so what about those great features that the Cybertruck has? Those great features actually add up to another kind of problem.
Not only is the Cybertruck not a truck, but it does not fall into any other vehicle category either. To put it another way, the Cybertruck is too much of every other kind of car to be any one kind of car. Elon Musk may be pointing us to the future of transportation, but in the present, it is a tough sell.
Does the Cybertruck Function like a Truck?
Yes, the Cybertruck can perform many of the functions that a traditional truck performs and, on paper, it can do it well. For example:
- It has a large bed
- It can haul whatever you can fit in the bed that weighs less than 3,500 pounds
- It can tow large trailers and vehicles up to 14,000 pounds
So yes it has the ability to perform many truck functions. The problem comes in determining if Cybertruck can actually perform as well as the specs indicate. Read on to get the details and note that the comparisons are to the Tri Motor version of the truck.
The Cybertruck not only has a comparable bed size, but it leads in terms of bed size, boasting an amazing 100 cubic feet. Generally speaking, there are three bed sizes for trucks:
- The short box at about 63 cubic feet
- The standard box at about 72 cubic feet
- The long box at about 90 cubicle feet
There are some models of the major manufacturers that come close to the Cyber truck at about 98 cubic feet. So the Cybertruck sneaks the lead in a couple of cases and wins big in most cases.
Tesla claims that the Cybertruck can haul about 3,500 pounds which is about 500 pounds more than what a half-ton truck like the F-150 can carry. In the truck world you can carry:
- Up to 3,000 pounds in a ½ ton truck
- Up to 4,000 pounds in a ¾ ton truck
- Up to 6,000 pounds in a 1-ton truck
Given the fact that the estimated weight of the Cybertruck is 6,000 pounds, that would seem to put the truck in a half-ton class 2a rating, but it’s hauling weight capacity puts it in the Class 2b category (more on this in a bit).
The Cybertruck has the ability to haul up to 14,000 pounds from its tow hitch. To get some perspective, with 14,000 pounds as your limit you can haul:
- A small to average fifth wheel camper
- An average unloaded trailer (just keep track of what you put into it)
- Just about any camper trailer
Trailers are, on average, 1,500 to 3,000 pounds unloaded. That gives you a lot of room to put things into, including motorcycles or ATVs. Camper trailers average around 5,000 pounds with a general spread of between 1,000 and 9,000 pounds. Fifth wheels, like campers, vary in size and can be outside the towing capacity of the Cybertruck, but the average weight is around 12,700 pounds.
As you can see, you can tow quite a lot with a Cybertruck. Given Cybertruck’s class is somewhere between a Class 2b and Class 3 why was it put up against a Ford F-150?
In keeping with the company’s history of questionable marketing ploys, when the Cybertruck was revealed Tesla released a video showing the Cybertruck winning in a tug-of-war against a Ford F-150.
There was considerable controversy and challenges thrown back and forth between Ford and Tesla for a rematch that has yet to happen. The blowback was over the unfairness of the comparison.
The EV Company seemed to inadvertently confirm this in the form of a letter from Sarah Van Cleve, Tesla’s senior managing policy advisor, to the California Air Resources Board. in the letter she states that Tesla expected the Cybertruck to be a Class 2b or 3 truck
So the Cybertruck is actually more comparable to heavy-duty models such as the:
- Ford F-250
- Chevrolet Silverado 2500
- GMC Sierra 2500
- Ram 2500
But even if the Cybertruck is fairly compared to other trucks of the same class, does that make it a truck? There are some levels at which SUVs can be compared to trucks. Does that make them trucks? The discussion of Cybertruck’s functionality is not over.
Cybertruck’s Functional Downsides
Just because the Cybertruck has the ability to haul and tow with the best of traditional trucks, does not mean that it can actually do it well. Some of this involves a little speculation given that the sellable model of the Cybertruck will not be available until later this year.
That said there is a crucial design factor that will either eliminate or restrict some of the truck’s functionality, and that design factor has to do with the angle of descent from the Cybertruck’s peak point. This creates a long slope for aerodynamic reasons (more on that later), but it creates high bed walls, especially as they are close to the cab.
The first problem this causes is that it all but eliminates one of the things that trucks are useful for:
- reaching into the bed at any point along its three open walls
- grabbing the thing you need without having to open the tailgate
With the high bed walls, you are pretty much forced into using the tailgate/ramp function for getting access to the bed.
The second problem is with towing. To tow most things over 10,000 pounds, you are looking at having a gooseneck hitch, or you are towing a fifth wheel. The gooseneck hitch, like one on a large trailer, may have the clearance it needs from those high bed walls for the turns you will make. But a fifth wheel likely will not.
The raw data of the specs can be misleading if the Cybertruck is limited by its own design in functioning as a truck
If It Looks and Drives like a Truck, It’s a Truck
Before you say that this is an oversimplification, consider this. The automotive industry is quite conservative in its design changes. There are changes of course, but you tend only to notice the extent of the change over the course of years, not necessarily model to model.
As an example:
- There is not a lot of difference between the 2021 Ram 2500 and the 2020 model
- However, if you go back to 2012, you start to notice the changes in the design
The auto industry is not known for grand upheavals in design for good reason. They tend to appeal only to gimmick lovers, but flop otherwise.
Tesla has always had a large gimmick appeal (just say Falcon Wing doors and the case is made). That and their environmental mission is probably how they have managed to maintain a following in spite of periods of poor quality control. Those drawn to the gimmicks love to stand out, but this typically excludes the average buyer.
In addition to the radical design, there is an extent to which the Cybertruck is not a truck because it tries to be everything else. In the automotive industry, there has never been a successful car that claims to be all things to all people. But you can probably picture in your mind all the people who have told you about that one specific type and model of the car that means everything to them.
Does the Cybertuck Look like a Truck?
There is no doubt about it. The Cybertruck catches your eye. But that could just as easily be for all the wrong reasons. It is an easy guess what most truck enthusiasts would think. Even many people who are tech enthusiasts responded negatively to the truck’s unveiling because the strangeness of its design is off-putting.
One website noted that more than a few lovers of all things tech and Tesla who were present at the event were so surprised they initially thought the truck was a joke on the part of CEO Elon Musk. Some may go so far as to say the jury is still out on whether or not that is the case.
Elon Musk was openly inspired by the cars in the Blade Runner movie and, as far as that goes, he succeeded in designing a car that not only looks futuristic but looks like it could have come from the future. On the downside, the design is also imposing to the point of threatening.
Possibly this too comes from Musk having been inspired by one of the classic dystopian sci-fi films of all time. Does that give Musk nerd-cred? Definitely. Does it give the Cybertruck lot appeal? For most truck buyers the answer is going to be a firm no. Put simply, the Cybertruck looks nothing like a truck.
The Aerodynamic Problem
To call the Cybertruck outlandish does not even begin to describe how different it is from the traditional truck. But there are more specific design issues that:
- Separate the Cybertruck from other trucks
- Confuse the issue of the Cybertruck’s functionality as a truck
The first problem with the aerodynamics of the truck is that it makes the truck look like it should be in the SUV category. This is because there is a sliding panel that covers the bed and locks it. This means:
- If you want to use it like a truck (with loads that stick up over the top of the sidewalls), you have to unroll the cover
- But if you want the cover to be closed, your loads are automatically restricted, just like an SUV
And this is where Tesla seems to confuse the issue. Musk has trumpeted the Cybertruck as a change to 100 years of truck design by making it more aerodynamic. The problem is that if you want to use it as a truck, you have to roll up the cover which effectively eliminates the Cybertruck’s aerodynamic advantage.
It is possible that this also decreases the Cybertruck’s range (which is an impressive 500 miles for the top-of-the-line version). The upshot is that the Cybertruck can be a truck but its truck-like capabilities are hampered by the aerodynamic design that you lose anyway when you use it as a truck.
The Modularity Problem
Another hallmark of the truck is that it is modular, it can be modified. The traditional truck has one job to do: it hauls stuff. It has done this job well for a long time, and one of the appeals of the traditional truck is that its owner can modify it to suit that owner’s hauling needs.
If the truck owner regularly hauls a bunch of loose crap and needs to change the bed to be longer, it is possible to do that. If the owner regularly hauls pallets and needs his truck to be a flatbed, can do.
Is modularity possible with the Cybertruck? No. The Cybertruck is not modular, so what you see is what you get. Now granted, you get a lot, but if you need to adapt the Cybertruck to suit your particular hauling needs, you are up that famous creek with no paddle.
Does the Cybertruck Drive like a Truck?
The final reason why the Cybertruck is not a truck stems from something that was mentioned earlier. Cars are never all things to all people. The problem with the Cybertruck is that it seems like it is trying to be.
If you read or listen to enough reactions to the Cybertruck, you will notice a trend. They tend to stray from what the Cybertruck can do as a truck to everything else it can do which may not have anything to do with being a truck. The Cybertruck can:
- Handle like a sports car
- Take you off-road
- Make you feel like you are driving a military surplus vehicle
- Make you feel luxurious
- Ease your conscience about living in a carbon-heavy country
- Play your favorite music on an awesome stereo
- Seat six people
- And haul some stuff
All these things stem from impressive specs like being able to go from 0-60 in just under 3 seconds (with the Tri Motor AWD version) and having adaptive air suspension and autopilot along with genuinely impressive images of the interior.
But Tesla has overlooked the reality of car buying. People who want a super-fast car that hugs the road look for a sports car. People who want a roomy passenger car with great hauling capabilities buy an SUV. People who want luxury seats get a sedan. And people who want to haul things buy a truck.
On many levels, Tesla’s Cybertruck is an impressive vehicle. Love the design or hate it, you practically have to scrape the image of it off your eyeballs to forget it. The high-end version has a far range and amazing power. The cubic feet of its bed is the best of any truck, and its interior seems like the roomiest of all of Tesla’s models.
But it seems like in the act of packing the Cybertruck with virtues and abilities, Tesla lost sight of its original intention: to make an EV truck.
Its hauling and towing abilities are compromised by its design so while it may appear to be better than other trucks, it is not. And the fact is that Tesla has severely limited its market by designing the Cybertruck as futuristically as they did. Ultimately the Cybertruck is many things, but it is not a truck.