Elon Musk’s concept of an all-electric, chrome steel truck is one that you just might say belongs … well, back to the longer term.
Taking a cue from that movie’s biggest star — John DeLorean’s extreme vision of a stainless-steel-bodied sports automobile — Musk three-plus years ago shocked the industry when he announced that Tesla would construct a “Cybertruck” that might speed up faster than a 911 and look nothing like a Ford F-150. And it could be built of DeLorean-esque chrome steel.
The Musk plan, like many Musk plans, has yet to return to fruition. In a revealing essay in The Recent York Times, veteran auto author Jack Ewing details the hassle to supply the Cybertruck, with a give attention to the usage of chrome steel in an “exoskeleton” vehicle as “one other example of Mr. Musk’s penchant for pushing technological boundaries to the brink of disaster.”
Ewing discusses with experts the challenges of working with the fabric — challenges, he writes, that will “help explain why Tesla is 2 years behind schedule in manufacturing the Cybertruck, which the corporate plans to supply at its factory in Austin, Texas.’’
The story quotes Raj Rajkumar, a professor of engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, on Musk’s go-my-own-way approach: “Tesla thinks they will solve any problem and don’t need to learn from anyone else. After which they get stuck in a corner.”
Meanwhile, Tesla’s been lapped by competitors whose electric trucks were announced later but went on sale sooner. Citing the high demand for EV trucks, Ewing notes, “Ford stopped taking reservations for its F-150 Lightning, a battery-powered version of the best-selling vehicle, because it could’t make the vehicles fast enough. Rivian, a more moderen electric vehicle company, can be struggling to supply enough of its pickup, the R1T, to fulfill demand.”
However it’s chrome steel that the majority intrigues him. Ewing explains that the price of the fabric exceeds conventional steel “since it comprises chromium and sometimes other ingredients, like nickel and molybdenum, which are in high demand. Stainless-steel’s tendency to spring back to its original shape means it can’t be stamped into fenders and other parts as easily because the more pliable steel utilized by most automakers. It also requires special welding techniques.” In other words, you may ignore Musk’s initial claim of a $40,000 truck; that is not going to occur.
The story takes a dive into design and mass-production questions, noting the Cybertruck body “has not one of the curves typical of most vehicles, as a substitute consisting of flat steel panels that experts say are probably cut with lasers after which welded together, eliminating the necessity for powerful stamping machines.”
Ewing also speculates about safety. “The steel utilized in most cars is designed to crumple in a crash, absorbing energy and protecting passengers,” he writes. “Stainless-steel doesn’t crumple as easily, exposing passengers to more of the force from impact.”
Summing up, he writes, “If nothing else, the Cybertruck will stand out in a crowded field.” But when? It’s now looking like 2024 before the truck gets produced in any real numbers.
For a deeper dive into the difficulties bringing a chrome steel truck to market, try the Times’ full report.