Polarizing objects are things you either instinctively love or loathe, no middle ground whatsoever. Tesla's Cybertruck is about as perfect of an instance as you'll ever encounter, however long you might live.
We love the basic idea and shape. Some critiques we read in the first few hours after its initial reveal suggested it to be a manifestation of unimaginative brutality, crude, ugly, and totally impractical. It is certainly different from traditional pickups, which apart from size have not really changed in concept in 100 years. Is it better than the tens of millions of pickups made during the past century? That remains to be seen, but as a concept vehicle it's both exciting and profoundly interesting.
Just the ease of loading is a revelation (excepting from the side, of course). Air suspension raises the front end and lowers the rear, and the tailgate becomes a ramp that allows rolling vehicles—think bikes and Tesla's own ATV—up into the bed without a struggle. A practical roll-up bed cover serves as an aerodynamic fairing when cargo is not taller than the flying buttresses, and it makes sense in terms of energy saving.
Designating the styling as "brutal" shows a complete lack of comprehension as to how subtle and intelligent the Cybertruck's designers were in defining its outer skin, applying the ancient Greek architectural idea of entasis, the not-readily-perceptible distortion of flat planes and straight lines to curves to make them seem straight to the human eye. The Greeks applied the idea to stone columns and to the façade of the Parthenon temple. And after England's Lord Elgin "acquired, rescued, obtained, appropriated, stole" (your choice of terms, as there has been ferocious argument about it for more than 200 years) some of the Parthenon itself and subsequently sold the marble sculptures to the British Museum, Messers Rolls and Royce used the entasis principle to shape the radiator shell of their cars. Pre-BMW Rolls-Royces used a shell made up of six basic "flat" pieces of metal, soldered together to make a miniature metal Greek temple.
The door cuts on the side of the pickup appear to give the game away: They are ever so slightly bowed outward between the dramatic, rising key waistline and the break in color at the sill. Not much of a curve, true, but a slight convexity that makes you think you're seeing a flat side. Or look carefully at the break line between the body side and the tailgate panel: It is not straight but the convergence of two lightly convex planes.
Graphic composition of the side view is quite artful, as well. The base plane containing the batteries is approximately parallel to the ground on its bottom but has a slight rise toward the rear. The key side line, starting at the rear end of the headlight bar and rising to the top of the tailgate (where the transverse taillight bar is located) gives a supercar-like impression of thrust to the whole ensemble. The top of the dark surround to the front wheel is not quite parallel to the key line but definitely is not parallel to the ground plane. The top of the rear wheelhouse is quite clearly angled upward toward the rear of the whole, and if that line is projected forward, it intersects with a projection of the key line somewhere well ahead of the Cybertruck.
Certainly, of course, Tesla will have to deal with several details in developing a production version. There is no apparent break between the bumper strike face and the body, which means no perceptible energy-absorbing crush structure. That really won't do, as a shock could easily kill all the occupants while leaving the vehicle only slightly damaged, as demonstrated by a Mercedes-Benz sedan in the Munich Deutsches Museum, where only the first few inches of the car were damaged in a barrier crash, but all passengers would have died. And the extremely sloped windshield would make driving the Tesla pickup in rain
or snow an utter nightmare. Nor would it be easy to clean the inside of the flat glass windshield, an important consideration for trucks on dirty work sites. The cabin of this concept does not seem to be fully developed, and the aircraft-style rectangular steering wheel is not particularly reasonable, but there is no question that a practical, functional, and comfortable interior is likely to come in due course as production preparation continues.
That the "bulletproof" stainless-steel exoskeletal structure is heavy is a matter of concern, but not perhaps as serious as might be expected in that there need not be a lot of weight-adding inner support, given the rigidity of the whole. The fact that the windows did not manage to survive steel balls thrown at them
during the show Tesla made of the Cybertruck's unveiling is irrelevant to a pickup truck's mission; showbiz presentations are amusing but have little to do with the real role of trucks.
The abrupt profile break just ahead of a driver's face is disconcerting, as we are really not accustomed to such sharp ruptures of line. It is not as bad aerodynamically as you might think, though. Northrup-Grumman experimental aerodynamicist Barnaby Wainfan built a little lifting-body airplane, the Facetmobile, the external skin of which was made up of nothing but 11 edge-joined flat plates. And Lockheed's F-117 Nighthawk was also made of flat sections, though many more of them. The true exterior design problem with the Tesla lies in its visibility constraints, not in its extremely simplified forms.
The geometry of the layout is surprising. And encouraging, in that the arrival and departure angles afforded in the base configuration are more like those of dedicated off-road-capable cars like the new Land Rover Defender
or the latest Jeep Wrangler
. We can see the possibility of making the cab much shorter by eliminating rear seats in favor of a longer load bed onto which 4-by-8 foot sheets of plywood or gypsum board could be loaded, thus offering a second model of the Cybertruck yet one with the same overall length. Crew-cab pickups like this one came into vogue when pickup trucks were not as reduced in power by pollution controls as were passenger cars, and so began to be used as family cars to an extent never experienced before. As electric vehicles become more common, the old questions of drivability caused by unsophisticated pollution-control systems will have totally disappeared and very likely new vehicle purchases will revert to norms preceding the clean-air legal disruptions. Meaning, we think, that pickups-as-family cars will decline in market importance, but electric pickups will become prevalent.
If that is so, the virtues embodied in the Cybertruck will leave it in good stead: easy loading, low center of gravity, excellent on-road and off-road performance. And, perhaps most important of all, striking appearance, something new and different provided along with traditional capabilities.