When he’s not calling a heroic diver a peadophile on Twitter, when he’s not union-bashing his employees, when he’s not appearing in ‘Rick and Morty’, Elon Musk is CEO of Tesla (for now). He’s attracted something of a personality cult among edgy teenage boys for his numerous stunts, such as Space X, which is just NASA but privatised, and for selling “Not Flamethrowers” which were, to all intents and purposes, flamethrowers. This has all culminated in the attention-grabbing launch of a new vehicle by Tesla – the Cybertruck, which was launched by Musk himself in November. While the new truck has picked up over £15.5 million in pre-order deposits already, which is all the more impressive when the deposit is a mere £77, I’m not a fan.
Now, there are things to like about the Cybertruck. It’s certainly different, and that should be applauded. It looks nothing like anything that’s currently on the road, so plus points for not just going with the most basic, utilitarian design they could think of. It’s also quite economically available. The entry-level model is only $39,000, which, according to the Kelly’s Blue Book, is the average price of a small luxury car, for example an Audi or BMW. While that’s not exactly cheap as chips, it does compare well to Tesla’s other cars, and other high-end electric SUV’s. And speaking of electric – it’s going to be a big help in transitioning from petrol-and-diesel driving to electric driving. The entry-level model can travel up to 250 miles on a single charge, can carry up to 1,587 kilograms and can tow up to roughly 6,000 kilograms. When most trucks are gas guzzlers, the Cybertruck is relatively green.
I do, despite this, still have massive reservations about Musk’s latest big project. Firstly, although it’s different, the design is ugly. Horribly ugly. Musk claimed it’s a throwback to the Lotus Espirit from Bond flick ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ (1977), and it also clearly “incorporates” (read: copies) the iconic 80’s DeLorean design. My problem with this is that this design isn’t futuristic. Its angles, mawkish, awkward and brutalist, remind me more of an East German concert house or a New Town shopping centre, rather than a futuristic metropolis. It’s a reflection of Musk, the middle-aged man going through a giant midlife crisis, to base a car design on what he thought was cool and futuristic when he was young in a vain attempt to capture the ‘cool factor’ of the DeLorean and co., when literally everyone else has moved on. After all, it’s worth remembering that DeLorean went out of business after 7 years in 1982 and were only revived through, essentially, nostalgia for ‘Back to the Future’, in 1995. My point is that the Cybertruck design is actually more regressive than progressive, a call-back to the past that limits our own imagination of the future, a living fantasy made real.
Also Musk’s boasts of the unbreakable Cybertruck, as well as this angular design, may be extremely unsafe on the road. Firstly, Musk hit the truck with a sledgehammer at the launch, without causing a dent – only breaking the base of the windows, which didn’t shatter until they were hit with a metal ball. These windows can supposedly stop 9mm bullets – and if they can do that, the body can withstand even more testing projectiles. This is problematic for two reasons. First of all, can you spot any problems in the fact that ordinary people in the USA will now be able to access both a vast array of firearms as well as what is essentially a light APC? The Cybertruck could be a boon for those wanting to cause violence in America today. Secondly, the fact that the Cybertruck has a tiny bonnet means that there is very little “crumple zone” – this is space between the driver and where any car impact will be in a crash, to reduce the force and propulsion of the impact upon the driver. This, combined with the militaristic exterior, means that in a crash the Cybertruck could be essentially a deadly weapon if it hits anything smaller than itself at high speed – and if it hits something larger, like, say, a lorry, the driver may be at risk of being smashed off their own unbreakable windshield like a fly on the highway.
Despite its many positives, don’t get too excited about Cybertruck yet. Not just for the reasons above – also because there has been, as of the time of writing, no launch schedule or pricing revealed for the European market, probably because it’s much less useful on tight, urban European roads than it is on America’s great highways. We should be glad – Cybertruck is not the future of transport, it’s a reckless throwback.
[Gabriel Rutherford – he/him – @GabeRuth_]
[Photo credit: BrickinNick]