The Tesla Cybertruck Is Official and It's Out Of This World

Everything We Know About Elon's Electric Pickup Truck

Key Points

  • A six-seat crew-cab pickup that's roughly the size of a Ford F-150
  • Projected to launch in late 2021 with standard air suspension
  • Single-motor model starts at $39,900, dual-motor at $49,900
  • Tri-motor model with insane specs arrives a year later at $69,900
  • Towing capacity of 7,500 pounds (single-motor) to 10,000 pounds (dual-motor)
  • Range of 250 miles (single-motor) to 300 miles (dual-motor)

Tesla Cybertruck - Front Exterior

What is it?

Tesla's Cybertruck looks like no truck you've ever seen. It has the angularity of a paper airplane, with zero rounded surfaces and a sharply peaked roof. The unpainted stainless steel bed and cab are fully integrated into one unit using unibody construction, similar (we think) to a Honda Ridgeline. The very look of it initially seemed like a prank when it rolled out onto the stage at Tesla's Los Angeles headquarters on Thursday evening. Our jaws dropped, and they more or less stayed dropped for Tesla CEO Elon Musk's entire live-streamed presentation.

It's not just the odd styling. Numerous details make it seem like a pure concept vehicle. There are no external mirrors, which are required under current regulations. There aren't even camera pods. The wheel spokes extend over the tire sidewalls, too, which doesn't work outside the confines of a design studio — especially on a truck where such spokes can literally ground out.

Tesla Cybertruck - Action Exterior

And then there was the unforgettable live demo of the shatterproof side glass, which promptly shattered when struck by a large metal ball that was supposed to bounce off harmlessly, leaving Musk to give the rest of his talk against a backdrop of broken glass. Not to mention the sledgehammer demo meant to show the dent resistance of the Cybertruck's stainless steel "stressed-member" monocoque construction — although the door panels held up, we suspect the fellow swinging the hammer could have put a little more oomph into it.

Still, the Cybertruck is undeniably a bold departure from the norm, and some of us are already smitten. It's going to be quite a sight on the road. As Musk noted onstage, most trucks look pretty much the same. The Tesla Cybertruck will never be accused of that.

What about the specs?

The Cybertruck's overall length of 231.7 inches is nearly identical to that of a Ford F-150 crew cab with a 5.5-foot bed, but the Tesla manages to squeeze in a 6.5-foot bed. That's a neat trick. Likewise, the Tesla truck's width of 79.8 inches is essentially on par with an F-150. The Cybertruck differs at the peak of its pointy 75-inch high roof, which is actually 2.2 inches lower than that of an F-150 crew cab. We're not sure what ride height that's measured at, though, because the Cybertruck will come standard with a four-corner air suspension that can raise and lower the truck considerably.

Tesla Cybertruck - Profile

During the presentation, that standard air suspension worked very slowly when an ATV was driven into its bed. But in the process, the tailgate was shown to have a cool built-in extendable full-width ramp, allowing the rider to pilot the quad bike up and in with little apparent difficulty. We were able to discern that the bed is covered with a built-in rolltop style tonneau that melds into the sloped roof.

The Cybertruck's payload capacity is listed at 3,500 pounds, which is impressive. Like, heavy-duty impressive. We do wonder if the unladen ride can be truly comfortable with that kind of capacity, even with an adjustable air suspension.

How about towing?

Towing is a big reason why people buy trucks, and the Tesla Cybertruck's ratings of 7,500 pounds (single-motor), 10,000 pounds (dual-motor) and 14,000 pounds (tri-motor) seem quite competitive compared to what you get from current 1500-series pickups. Thing is, we're not convinced an all-electric pickup can actually do that in practice.

Why? A Model X is rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds, but we had trouble towing a featherweight trailer with our long-term test vehicle. To be clear, the physical act of pulling the load wasn't an issue at all; from this standpoint, we found electric towing to be a piece of cake. We expect that to be true of the Cybertruck's various permutations, too.

The trouble will likely be range and recharging. Just like towing with a gasoline-powered vehicle, efficiency when towing is twice as bad, or more, because of the extra weight and the abysmal aerodynamics of the trailer. We observed this dropoff when towing just 1,600 pounds in our Model X, so we can only imagine the range depletion that will go with towing 10,000 pounds or more in a Cybertruck. As it was, our Model X's range was cut by more than half. Getting from one Supercharger to the next one (just 98 miles away) was a white-knuckle experience. And that was without any headwind.

Tesla Cybertruck - Action Rear Exterior

We arrived nearly empty, and that in turn made it feel necessary to charge the battery to 100%. That sad reality nearly tripled our usual Supercharger dwell time. Faster Supercharging is in the process of being rolled out, but we're not sure of the exact implications for this use case.

Moreover, only one of the 40 or 50 Superchargers we've visited was set up to service a vehicle towing a trailer. The lone exception was barely able to deal with our tiny single-axle trailer and could not have handled anything like a full-size triple-axle Airstream. Except for this one instance, we had to disconnect every time and leave our unhooked trailer unattended while the car was on the charger.

These issues would be magnified, to put it mildly, when arriving with a 10,000-pound or 14,000-pound trailer. Musk made no mention of any changes to the Supercharger network to support the needs of this scenario, which isn't that uncommon for a truck.

When can I get one, and how much does it cost?

Tesla announced that three versions of the Cybertruck will be offered. Orders are being taken now, with delivery of the base rear-wheel-drive and dual-motor all-wheel drive models to begin in late 2021. The single-motor base model will cost $39,900 and can reportedly tow 7,500 pounds, accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, and cover approximately 250 miles between charges. Next up is the dual-motor all-wheel-drive Tesla truck, which will cost you $49,900. It will reportedly tow 10,000 pounds, accelerate to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, and provide a range of 300 miles.

Tesla Cybertruck - Front Exterior

The top-level tri-motor all-wheel-drive model will be delivered a year later toward the latter part of 2022. Musk threw out some truly extraordinary claims about this truck, claiming it will be capable of towing 14,000 pounds, accelerating to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds and covering 500 miles between plug-ins.

Autopilot is standard on all Cybertrucks, but you can pay an extra $7,000 for the future promise of "full self-driving" to be activated at an unspecified later date.

In all cases, Tesla will have completely run out of federal tax credit eligibility. You'll get nothing off the price unless your state government has a program of its own.

Why does it matter?

Pickup trucks are the most popular vehicles currently bought by Americans, and electric vehicles excel at delivering abundant torque off the line. Since torque and trucks go together like peanut butter and chocolate, it's no wonder that talk of electric trucks is rampant on social media and in corporate boardrooms alike. Moreover, taking a vehicle that emits a lot of CO2 down to zero is an appealing and admirable goal.

Thing is, it's not that cut-and-dried. The Cybertruck will certainly do the job if you're an air-hauler who only wants a truck for the look of it. No trouble there. The Tesla truck will haul your mountain bike to the trailhead or your surfboard to the beach like nobody's business. If you'd only ever use it to buy a couple of sheets of plywood and a few two-by-fours from the local home improvement store, have at it.

Tesla Cybertruck - Interior

But we're worried about towing expectations. Even recreational towing almost always involves "getting away from it all" by towing a boat to a distant lake, or an Airstream travel trailer to a remote national park. The Supercharger network, as we have repeatedly experienced, is not set up for this — not with a truck and trailer. Tesla will need to solve this problem in order for the Cybertruck to be a true 1500-series substitute.

What does it compete with?

While the Tesla pickup truck doesn't technically exist yet, neither do the other electric trucks on the horizon. Although the Bollinger Motors B2 exists in prototype form, it's destined to be an expensive low-volume Class III boutique special that won't even have airbags or an official EPA range rating. The 2021 Rivian R1T is a bit less mysterious because it has broken cover and been seen testing in the wild. The last tow rating figure we saw for the R1T was 11,000 pounds, and if the previously announced schedule holds true, it'll be released by the end of 2020.

Ford and General Motors have also announced conventional-looking electric trucks. Of the two, the electric Ford F-150 seems further along, but it's not likely to be ready until 2021. The Chevrolet EV pickup's future existence was revealed during recent UAW union negotiations, with a fall 2021 on-sale target.

The idea of the electric pickup truck has surely taken root. We're just not sure who is going to bring one to market first.

Edmunds says

We're fans of electric vehicles, and we also like the utility offered by pickup trucks. But all bets are off here, because the Tesla Cybertruck's radical design is not going to fit into any existing molds or conform to known expectations. The specs look good, and the prices fit into what people already seem willing to pay for a truck. But the incomplete nature of the data shared at the launch event, as well as the dramatically conceptual nature of the truck itself, leave us with numerous questions. It's hard to know what to think. We're gobsmacked. We can't wait to drive one.

Tesla Cybertruck - Front Exterior