Cybertruck’s flat-panel design necessary, Musk says, as pre-orders climb to 250K while stock falls

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Updated Nov 27, 2019

Just as some of you smart ones out there may have suspected, Blade Runner isn’t the only influence behind Tesla’s angular Cybertruck. Turns out Tesla’s stamping equipment can’t handle that hard stainless steel.

Following an avalanche of reactions on the radical design, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted today that the car’s multiple flat panels could not be stamped into more conventional curves given the limitations of his current equipment.

“Reason Cybertruck is so planar is that you can’t stamp ultra-hard 30X steel because it breaks the stamping press,” Musk Tweeted.

He followed up shortly with this Tweet, “Even bending it requires a deep score on inside of bend, which is how prototype was made.”

As a consequence, less bending requirements for body panels equates to less labor and easier fitment. Material cost differences between stainless steel and conventional can vary depending on content and thickness.

Car manufacturers have typically sought to reduce curb weight in EVs given heavy batteries. Regarding the Model X, Tesla posted on their website that they had nixed spare tires because of their extra weight which, they said, reduces range.

So why didn’t Musk opt for composites, carbon fiber, aluminum or more conventional steel? First, those materials can’t hold up well under a hammer. Musk relished that moment on stage when he had his Cybertruck beaten with a sledgehammer. The body didn’t appear to have any dents or dings. Musk also said the body could stop a 9mm bullet which may come in handy during LA traffic jams. (All kidding aside, it seriously stinks hearing what sounds like gunshots while stuck on the 405, 10, 60, 101 or whatever.)

It’s important to note that Musk pointed out how SpaceX, his other company, will be building the Starship spacecraft out of the same 30X stainless-steel being used for Cybertruck. That’s an interesting connection that evokes the strong image of Starship glowing cherry-red upon re-entry. Not only that, but it would have been nice being a fly on the wall while Tesla negotiated for price on that steel. Oh, by the way, in addition to Starship we’re going to be mass producing trucks out of that steel, so let’s talk about price, or something to that effect.

The real question is do pickup customers really want material that tough? If so, they’ll have to settle for Tesla’s flat panel Cybertruck for now. Curves would cost more—a lot more. So, if flat is where it’s at, then why not something less triangular? Well, then you risk losing a connection to one of the most popular sci-fi films of all time, Blade Runner. In addition to that, it’s built a bridge to fans of the popular video game Halo who have praised the truck’s design for its resemblance to the game’s assault vehicles.

That body is apparently turning heads. Musk tweeted Tuesday that Cybertruck had racked up 250,000 pre-orders. A refundable $100 deposit is required. Word of the pre-orders sent Tesla’s stock up five percent early Monday morning following a six percent tumble on Friday. But when the final bell rang Wednesday, Tesla stock resumed a 6.5 percent drop from last Thursday’s closing on the eve of Cybertruck’s embarrassing reveal during which two of its Tesla Armor glass windows were broken during a lamentable demo that had a dumbfounded Musk exclaiming, “Oh my ****ing god!”

Regardless of body design and vexing reveals, as Hard Working Trucks has pointed out before, reporters need a chance to really test these electric pickups none of which have actually entered the market. Most important of all is their ability to tow and haul and ability to keep up with a conventional truck throughout an honest day’s work. Fourteen thousand pounds of towing capacity for the tri-motor variant doesn’t mean much if that 500-mile range is so drastically reduced that you’re spending way too much time at SuperChargers along the way. But I guess that means more downtime for Halo along with catching up on email and Musk’s latest Tweets assuming that drivers weren’t already doing so in Autopilot, but that’s another story…

Note: This story was updated to include Musk’s most recent announcement of Cybertruck pre-orders and its most recent stock price reported on Wednesday evening.