Shock response to ‘bizarre’ Tesla ute

 

An unconventional design, a product unveiling that didn't go to plan, and suspicions on whether it will deliver on its promises haven't stopped almost 200,000 people racing to pre-order Tesla's newest model, according to the company's at-times controversial founder.

Elon Musk yesterday took to Twitter to announce the company's newest unveiling, the Cybertruck, has amassed 146,000 orders "with no advertising and no paid endorsement".

This morning he cryptically tweeted "187k", which is understood to be an update on the previous day's tweet.

"Orders" only require a US$100 ($A147) deposit.

The Cybertruck has been rumoured and alluded to for years but was finally unveiled at an event in Los Angeles last week, bringing with it some surprising performance claims and a polarising design.

It certainly doesn't look like any ute we've seen in the past, but the Cybertruck does promise to compete and even outperform them, without costing the earth.

The all-electric ute has been revealed with an entry price tag of US$39,900 ($A58,700), with (seemingly more popular) AWD variants starting from US$49,900 ($73,400).

Tesla CEO Elon Musk introduces the Cybertruck at Tesla's design studio in California. Picture: AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File
Tesla CEO Elon Musk introduces the Cybertruck at Tesla's design studio in California. Picture: AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File

The Ford F-150 (the largest selling ute in the US, an electric version of which the company announced earlier this year), starts at around US$35,000 ($A51,490) for a four-door variant like the Cybertruck, but the Tesla promises to outperform it, and many other higher-specced trucks, while still retaining the instant acceleration and high-speed performance of other Tesla models.

The top-of-the-line tri-motor AWD variant boasts a 0-97km/h time of under three seconds, a range of more than 800 kilometres, and a towing capacity of more than six tonnes.

The Cybertruck also has self-levelling air suspension for heavy loads and no brake pedal, an exclusion that raised eyebrows but is perfectly acceptable on an electric vehicle that doesn't necessarily require them.

RELATED: How to get an electric car for $20K.

Existing Teslas and other electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf can be driven using a single pedal, with acceleration and braking determined by the amount of pressure placed and a process called "regenerative braking" using the vehicle's kinetic energy to recharge its batteries as it slows.

While the Cybertruck boasts a similar level of utility as a high-class ute, that's pretty much all it has in common with ones we know, something Mr Musk was evidently aware of in unveiling it.

But because this is Tesla, things haven't exactly gone off without a hitch.

Firstly, there were the embarrassing blunders at the launch event when a number of durability testing stunts intended to wow audiences backfired.

Sci-Fi flick Blade Runner was among the design inspirations for the Cybertruck.
Sci-Fi flick Blade Runner was among the design inspirations for the Cybertruck.

Then, there were the "shatterproof" windows.

The Cybertruck, evidently designed for a Mad Max future where tech barons glide safely from their desert apocalypse bunkers through the dystopic wasteland partially of their own creation towards the last SpaceX rocket available to ferry them off to Mars, has been built with durability in mind.

Accordingly, the Cybertruck's allegedly bulletproof glass windows have been designed to withstand shattering, but an onstage demonstration of its strength didn't exactly go as planned.

"Oh my f***ing god," Mr Musk laughed after a metal ball thrown by Tesla design chief Franz Von Holzhausen cracked the glass on impact. "Well, maybe that was a little too hard?" Mr Musk said before Mr Von Holzhausen tried again on another window, with identical results.

"It didn't go through," Mr Musk noted optimistically, later sharing a video of what was supposed to happen.

Another test of the Cybertruck's durability came in the form of a hammer smashing against its doors, which crumpled a rival truck's doors but had no discernible impact on the Cybertruck.

This quickly raised questions on what kind of crumple zones the Cybertruck will have when released. They are designed to absorb the impact of a collision and prevent the enormous amounts of kinetic energy transferring through, for instance, you and your soft organs.

The vehicle also doesn't have any rearview mirrors or airbags yet and, in its current iteration, would be unlikely to rank highly or even pass an ANCAP safety rating for sale in Australia.

But the Cybertruck that arrives will likely be very different to the one we've been shown so far.

The shatterproof windows didn’t exactly deliver. Picture: AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File
The shatterproof windows didn’t exactly deliver. Picture: AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File

Tesla's ambitious announcements have a habit of changing as they enter production.

The Model 3 for instance, a Tesla sedan designed to offer a cheaper version of its Model S luxury car, went through several changes throughout what Mr Musk described as "production hell" before eventually emerging, very different to how it was initially announced.

Any changes Tesla make to a production Cybertruck are unlikely to be on the design front, but that appears to be where the majority of criticisms are coming from.

RELATED: Tesla battery to get even bigger, save us more money

The Cybertruck boasts plenty of torque, but not even it has the power to match the level its appearance is being dragged online.

Mr Musk said the car took design inspiration from movies like Blade Runner and James Bond, but others have been less kind about Mr Musk's muse.

The Cybertruck is expected to enter production in late 2021, but it will be worth watching Mr Musk's Twitter page, where it's likely he'll make any further announcements.

Mr Musk has remained a devoted user of the microblogging platform despite the controversy it's caused him in the past.

RELATED: Tesla CEO Elon Musk to stand trial

Last year he and Tesla were forced to pay US$20 million each to settle a case from the US Securities and Exchange Commission after he said he would take the company private at a price of $420 a share, which was both a reference to cannabis culture and a significant premium on its trading price at the time.

Mr Musk was also forced to step down as chairman for three years after the share price jumped 6 per cent on his announcement.

Tesla shares fell by the same amount on the announcement of the Cybertruck.

What do you think of the Tesla Cybertruck? Weird and dangerous or the future of utes? Let us know in the comments below.


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