Tesla Cybertruck musings: Let’s consider all the angles

The Tesla Cybertruck is finally here, or at least a few of them are. Check out our rundown of the livestreamed debut and summary of prices, specs and features, if you haven’t already, and my colleague James Riswick has already weighed in with some thoughts.

But yes, the truck is late. Yes, it’s more expensive than expected. No, it doesn’t go as far on a charge, nor hold as much payload, nor tow as much weight as promised. Whatever. That’s Tesla and that’s the new normal, especially when it comes to EVs. (Autonomous cars, anyone? Quad-motor Rivian R1T with the Max Pack, anyone? $40,000 Chevrolet Silverado EV Work Truck, anyone?) We’re all just going to have to get over it.

And why wouldn’t we get over it with this outer space beast to finally enjoy? Look, as you’ll discover if you continue reading, or if you read my pieces on the Tesla Semi, I am no Tesla fanboy. I have zero interest in owning a Cybertruck. I am still thrilled every time I get in my 1999 Ford F-250 Super Duty with the 7.3. But I respect the game. Tesla CEO Musk wanted the “Blade Runner” of pickups, in my opinion, his team delivered. The Cybertruck, as a project and as a vehicle to see on streets, looks cool as sh**. How will it be to live with, or charge, or get repaired, or drive off-road? Owners will know, I don’t. But I know that enthusiasts have spent nearly two decades decrying how all cars look the same. Here’s one that doesn’t. I’m with Giorgetto Giugiaro on this one

. I applaud it.

Having said th at, let’s get into a few issues, questions, and new info about The United Federation of Planets’ official pickup:

The size

The production truck is different dimensionally than the concept. A slide with the dimensions shown during the 2019 reveal claimed these numbers: 231.7 inches long, 79.8 inches wide, 75 inches high, with a 6.5-foot bed, 100 cubic feet of exterior storage. Its bed was also said to be 57 inches across, just short of five feet. According to the Cybertruck page at Tesla’s site, the production truck in Cyberbeast and AWD trims is 223.7 inches long, 86.6 inches wide with the mirrors folded, 95 inches wide with mirrors out — we’ll come back to this point in a second — 70 inches high, with a 6-foot-long bed that’s 4 feet across, and 67 cubic feet of lockable storage. 

Maximum ride height at the reveal was a claimed 16 inches. We’re not sure what the maximum height of the production truck is while moving, but on its tippy toes, the production truck is claimed to get up to 17.4 inches high in Extract Mode, which sounds like it’s only for getting out of jams, not normal motoring.

Where are the markers?

The book of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards demands that vehicles wider than 80 inches feature marker lamps — the three amber lights at the front of a vehicle that let other drivers know there’s a wide load ahead. The 2024 Ford Raptor R, an exact match for the Cybertruck at 86.6 inches wide without mirrors, wears three amber lights at the leading edge of its hood, atop the grille. The 86.7-inch 2024 GMC Hummer EV shows off three amber lights at the top edge of windshield. The 88-inch-wide 2023 Ram 1500 TRX tucks its marker lights in its hood scoop. Has anyone seen marker lights on the production version of the Cybertruck? We haven’t. The concept appeared to mount them

at the top of the windshield, however, that’s where the optional light bar goes now.

We don’t see the lights in twilight photos where the Cybertruck has its headlight and taillight on, nor do we see them in Jason Camissa’s video review of the Cybertruck. Maybe the lights will appear at the top of the windshield at some point, but they shouldn’t be this difficult to see right now. We’d like to know how the 10 units delivered Thursday night are going to stay on the road legally if the markers aren’t on the truck. Then again, the mirror mounts seem kind of recessed, so maybe the body itself squeezes just under the 80-inch mark. It’s just a strange mixup to have a concept with markers but under 80 inches wide, and have a production version listed at 86.6 inches wide with no markers.

The hyperbole

It’s not a Tesla event without a few statements that can only be answered with a sideways glance. Musk said the Cybertruck is “a better truck than a truck, and a better sports car than a sports car in the same package.”

The Cybertruck can and should be celebrated for quite a few things, but this is two lies in one sentence. The Cybertruck isn’t for men and women who spend their days doing Real Truck Stuff all day every day, like hauling heavy things, towing heavy things, or even reaching repeatedly over a bedside to grab things. The Cybertruck isn’t for the men and women who spend their Sunday mornings hooning sports cars up and down (paved) canyon roads. The Cyberbeast beating a Porsche 911 in a quarter-mile while pulling a 911? Marketing laffy-taffy. A base Corvette Z06 will match the Cyberbeast to 60 if you get the perfect start (Tesla’s time doesn’t count the rollout), will beat the Cyber in the quarter-mile, and will do so more times on a tank of gas than the Cybertruck will on a charge.

The Cybertruck, like the Tesla Semi, doesn’t need this kind of fluff. Just look at it! 

The range extender

Drew Baglino, Tesla’s SVP of Powertrain and Energy Engineering, said on X (ex-Twitter) that the range extender is a “toolbox-sized battery” sitting in the bed. By “toolbox,” he had to be referring to the lockable toolbox some pickups fit across their beds behind the cab, because the extender is two feet long, four feet wide, and of an unknown height. A bed toolbox filled with tools isn’t a portable item. A lithium-ion battery that size? Come on. Further proof, the Cybertruck page contains this sentence about the energy cell: “Go even further with a range extender installed into the Cybertruck’s bed. Offering up to 470 miles of total range. Installed separately.”

The battery is claimed to add 130 miles of range to the mid-level AWD trim, delivering that estimated 470-mile range. On the top Cyberbeast trim, the range extender adds 120 miles, for a total of 440 miles of range. The 2024 Fiat 500e and its 42-kWh battery will probably post an EPA-rated range of not much more than 130 miles when it gets here next year. The Fiat 500e is a lot lighter than a Cybertruck, with a lot less frontal area. There’s no way the Cybertruck range extender is portable, hence the word “Installed” in the description. This is going to live in the bed. An X user who dug through Tesla website’s HTML found source data suggesting the range extender will cost $16,000, which is roughly the cost of replacing the entire 82-kWh battery in the Model 3.

We don’t know what this accessory will run, but it won’t be cheap and it won’t be light, so prepare to give up a chunk of that 2,500-pound max payload capacity.

The spare

The Cybertruck has an accessories page full of kit, including a cargo rack, cleats, a sunshade, and a 20-inch spare wheel and Goodyear tire. The spare is going to be a necessity for anyone who plans to go deep off-road. The wheel and tire cost $1,250 and come with the tools to change a wheel, like a jack and a telescoping lug nut wrench. The Goodyear site comes up with one option

for a 285/65 20-inch tire, the Wrangler Duratrec RT-LT for $467 retail. 

Bundling the tools with the spare makes us wonder if a jack and lug wrench don’t come standard with the Cybertruck. Also, it’s a bottle jack, which brings up more questions. The Cybertruck stands so tall and has 12 inches of suspension travel, we can’t see a bottle jack getting a tire off the ground if the jack’s placed anywhere under the body. On a truck like this, the easiest way to get a tire off the ground with a traditional jack is to put the jack under the differential, or use a Hi-Lift jack to raise the wheel itself, then put a jack stand under an axle. Considering the size shape of a traditional differential housing, the tiny contact circle at the top of a bottle jack is not what you want for the job. Did Tesla make a special place for it?

Anyway, the image used for the spare has the spare mounted flat, strapped down at the head of the bed in the same place the range extender battery would go. A wheel and tire combo this size is 34.6 inches tall, meaning the spare placed like that would eat up nearly half the length of the bed, taking up even more space than the range extender battery. Standing the spare up in the bed against the bulkhead would be ideal, but you might not be able to close the tonneau. Carrying the range extender and a spare, which is exactly what you’d want if you planned to go deep off-road in your Cybertruck, looks like it will entail serious compromises. 

We want more information on mounting options, though. The aftermarket needs to come through with a spare carrier. Until then, the $550 air compressor and tire repair kit would make a lot of sense.

Oh yeah, if you want Cybertruck wheel covers — the ones the truck is always wearing except when prepped for sale — they’re also on the accessories page at $75 a pop. And only Tesla owners can buy them.

The empty boasts

The “shatter-resistant glass” that’s “basically rock-proof,” good up to “Class 4,” and keeps the cabin “as quiet as outer space” …

All automotive glass is shatter-resistant, windshields especially so. “Basically” stopping rocks means, as Tesla’s website says, the glass “can resist the impact of a baseball at 70 mph.” A baseball-sized rock at 70 mph is going to be a different story. The statement about “Class 4” hail resistance was Musk using a term developed for the hail-resistance of roofing materials, Class 4 being the strongest. And this one might be pedantic, but … you wouldn’t want a cabin as quiet as outer space even if it were possible. Space is a vacuum. There’s no sound in a vacuum. It’s already disconcerting enough being in a Rolls-Royce. And ask firefighters and EMTs if they want everyone in their personal Major Tom space bubbles.

On a more lighthearted note, the accessories store offers a broken window decal that makes the left rear window look like the window that shattered at the Cybertruck reveal. Called the “Cybertruck OMFG Decal,” it goes over the production truck’s rear window and costs $55 — in case you missed out on getting one of the $35 T-shirts that cashed in on the faux pas.

The Cybertruck is bullet-resistant.

This is a comedown from earlier claims of being bulletproof, but it still doesn’t make sense to heed this boast. Armor resistance is rated in levels so that everyone understands what kind of bullets a “bulletproof” object can stop. When we write about an Inkas truck, like its J76 Toyota Land Cruiser, we say, for example, “The armor bits start with BR6-level plating that surrounds the entire passenger cell with ballistic steel at a minimum thickness of 0.3 inches (41mm), plus armored skid plating that doubles as a blast shield.” (BR6 armor can stop rifle rounds in modern high-power calibers.) The Cybertruck’s 301 stainless steel stainless steel isn’t ballistic steel, but videos have shown the 3-mm-thick panels can stop off-the-shelf 9mm or .45-caliber. Great. But the windows can’t. And there are other kinds of bullets. 

The Cybertruck has greater “torsional stiffness than a McLaren P1.”

A useless measure. Any automaker can make a vehicle stiffer than a McLaren P1. Given enough time to order enough steel, you could make a structure stiffer than a McLaren P1, given enough time in your own garage to do so. Trophy Trucks aren’t stiffer than a McLaren P1, but their suspensions are amazing. The Tesla’s test will be how well the adaptive suspension keeps occupants from realizing the Cybertruck is stiffer than a McLaren P1. We don’t doubt Tesla has done its homework in that regard.

The Cybertruck’s low center of gravity makes it unlikely to roll over.

Name a battery-electric vehicle for which this isn’t true when compared to traditional ICE vehicles in its class. Besides, a billion hours of dashcam videos on YouTube should prove to everyone that Sunday drivers and everyday physics can make the wildest things happen. Everything can roll over. Anywhere. But hey, the Model X was the first SUV to ace the NHTSA’s crash test regime, partly thanks to its resistance to rolling over.

Final questions

  • The rear-view mirror is not only small, it won’t provide a view if the tonneau is covered unless it’s picking up a rear-view camera feed. We want to know what’s going on there.
  • The triangular shape of the side mirrors means less view of what’s behind. This could be exacerbated by the Cybertruck’s also-compromised three-quarter view. Patience and paying excellent attention can get around this. However, know where these designer side mirrors are going to suck? Towing. Traditional truck mirrors are big for reasons, one of them being the need to get the biggest and best view of the upper rear corner of whatever you’re pulling. Going to want a limber neck and shoulders to get the best view.
  • At the reveal, there was going to be a six-seater version or option that replaced the two front seats with a bench. What’s up with that?
  • Will the locking front differential be automatically operated only, or driver-selectable? And what kind of brake-based torque vectoring programs will be available to the AWD and base trims, if any?
  • What’s the rear headroom like?
  • The Cybertruck’s charging port door is on the rear edge of the driver’s side rear wheel arch. Two Cybertrucks pulling trailers drive into a Supercharger station. That’s it. That’s the whole joke. Now what? 
  • Vehicles over 6,000 pounds that are used mostly for business get an IRS tax benefit deduction. The Cybertruck AWD weighs 6,603 pounds, the Cyberbeast weighs 6,843 pounds. Are we going to see a bunch of these in work fleets? Because we can definitely see realtors in certain areas of the country picking up a bunch of these (Looking at you, Scottsdale).
  • We’re also expecting an 18-inch wheel option. How much will it change the price and how will that affect range, assuming it comes?
  • Will Tesla’s $2,975 Basecamp tent destroy appetite for the $24,000 Space Camper or $54,995 Cyberlandr?

That’s a wrap

As we mused when Tesla announced wraps for the Model 3 and Model Y, the Cybertruck will offer wraps. Incredibly, these are the same price or less expensive for the Cybertruck than for the sedan and crossover. A clear satin paint film for the Cybertruck costs the same $5,000, black or white paint films are $6,500, which is $1,000 less than the same monochromes for the cars.