The Tesla Cybertruck Is Many Things, But Pretty Is Not One of Them
Marc Stern's picture

Even If the Tesla Cybertruck Wins New Truck-Pull Versus Ford F150, It Just Isn’t Pretty

When you come right down to it, there's very little that is appealing about the Tesla Cybertruck. The lines are not particularly pleasing; the angles are counter-intuitive, and you have to wonder if a committee of chipmunks designed it.
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The headline for this article spells out the major issue for Elon Musk’s electric pickup, the Tesla Cybertruck. The team that designed and put the humungously hideous pickup together was either on drugs or came away convinced that every truck owner in the lower-48 states would toss their keys into the fire and double-down on someone’s idea of a hysterically funny joke.

Tesla Is Serious About This Pickup

Tesla doesn't see anything funny about the Cybertruck. It's doubtful that the design team is laughing, either. After all, would you laugh, if you designed a truck that others think is a huge joke? We doubt it. But, Tesla is serious about its weird-looking truck, as are many Tesla fans. Some 200,000 Tesla fans have plunked down their $100 deposits to reserve one of the first electric trucks that roll off the line. And, let's face it, while Tesla is serious because 200,000 is a lot of vehicles for them to make, Ford isn't. Why would the automaker be concerned when its pickup line -- the Ford F150 -- is at the top of the segment, a spot it has occupied for 42 years? And, while Tesla's numbers are significant for the electric carmaker, for Ford, the numbers are about one-fifth of a year’s production and sales of the F150 pickup lineup. It is hardly a contest.

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Tesla has played this whole tug-of-war thing with a straight face as if there were some real validity to having a rigged test that showed the Cybertruck, Tesla’s electric pickup, winning out over a Ford F150. From the start, the truck-pull is bogus. Here’s why:

Tug-of-War Not A Real Comparison

  1. Apples-to-Apples, Oranges-to-Oranges, Not kumquats to rhubarb -- The comparison in this is so wrong that the glare nearly hurts. The Ford F150 in this test used an internal combustion engine (ICE); the Tesla was, well, an electric. The Ford used the standard 5.0-liter V-8 engine; the Tesla used at least two electric motors as it was an AWD pickup. Tesla announced in its info about the Cybertruck that all-wheel-drive (AWD) versions of the electric pickup would use a minimum of two motors, one for the front axle and the second for the rear. This gives the electric a distinct advantage over the ICE entry.
  2. Load-‘em-up -- Moving to the next issue, we find out that the Ford F150 wasn’t lightly or moderately loaded. It was not loaded at all. In the meantime, the Tesla Cybertruck has its heavy driveline components available to keep its huge and muscular rubber on the ground. It also has its instant torque available. Most importantly, though, since the Ford F150 is facing downhill and whatever weight that might have been available to load the rear wheels has been transferred to the front wheels so that when the drivers light of their vehicles in the tug-of-war, the Tesla is the winner.
  3. He Did What? No! -- If you watched any of the videos, including the one that we are repeating today, notice the Ford F150. It just sits there while the Cybertruck gets a running start. Only when the Tesla has put tension into the tow strap does the Ford truck driver begin doing anything.
  4. Honestly, Did They Wheely Do It?

  5. Did They Wheely Do That? -- Okay, take a look at the wheels on the Cybertruck. Do they seem much larger than the F150’s rubber? Well, they should because the Ford is shot in standard truck tries, while the Tesla’s standard equipment includes huge off-roading wheels and 37-inch grippy tires. The result is that the Cybertruck has lots of torque available and could probably pull up many tree stumps with it. We guess that if they wanted fair in this they would have used larger tires and wheels and perhaps a lift kit on the Ford, plus adding four-wheel-drive, not rear-wheel-drive.
  6. It’s So Fugly That Only Its Manufacturer Loves It -- You do have to admit that the Tesla Cybertruck is UGLY as in not-very-good-looking. The lines scream “design by blindfolded chipmunks.” At least, the chipmunks are cute compared to the bony, irregular lines of the Cybertruck. As the old saying goes, it is so UGLY that …
  7. Anchors A-Weigh -- To be fair, the Cybertruck does look like the committee that designed it was more interested in their summer vacations than designing a real truck because the current iteration of the Tesla looks like a poorly designed motorboat. On a more serious note, the Tesla’s weight and center of gravity are, for the most part, in planes that favor its traction. And, one has to remember that electric motors and their associated drive machine are not only right there for instant power, but that they tend to keep also keep their weight low over the wheels for added traction.

Many Voices Pan Truck Pull

If you think, then, that the tug-of-war was fair, it wasn’t. This view was echoed by noted physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson who rapped the report fair truck-pull for many of the reasons outlined here.

With that said, though, Ford was quick to answer the challenge issued by Tesla for another truck-pull, and for two days it looked as if there would be a Ford-sanctioned event running a Ford F150 against the Cybertruck. However, the automaker scotched that thinking, saying in a statement that they would prefer to provide their current customers with the best experience possible and so they politely declined.

That hasn’t stopped Tesla, though, which is planning another truck-pull. It will probably one of the bigger non-events of next year as it only applies to the Ford world and Tesla aficionados. Whoever wins, it will gain bragging rights.

Only Bookies See This As A Major Event

Oh, and it will matter to British sportsbooks who have to believe that Tesla will win the next round of what could be arguably be called “Beauty and the Beast.” British bookies have handicapped the rematch and are giving odds to the Cybertruck over Ford. The issue, though, is the type of rematch. Another gasoline versus electric pas de deux won’t cut it. Instead, there are many on the internet, says The Ford Authority, who want to see the Ford F150 EV versus what is perhaps one of the ugliest trucks in creation. Indeed that is the matchup that makes any sense, at all. “We [TFA] don’t think Ford has anything to lose in the contest between two electric trucks. Even if the Cybertruck comes out on top, the Tesla is still horrendously ugly and will never appeal to most of the truck folks that have made the Ford F150 the top-selling vehicle in the country each year [42] for the last several decades.”

Sources: Author research; The Ford Authority

About the Author

Marc Stern has been an auto writer since 1971. It was a position that filled two boyhood dreams: One was that I would write, and two that I write about cars. When I took over as my newspaper’s auto editor, I began a 32-year career as an automotive columnist. There isn’t much on four wheels that I haven’t driven or reviewed. My work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Mechanix Illustrated, AutoWeek, SuperStock, Trailer Life, Old Cars Weekly, Special Interest Autos, and others. Today, I am the Ford F150 reporter for Torque News. I write how-to and help columns for online sites such as Fixya.com and others. You can follow me on Twitter or Facebook.


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Comments

Sure the Tesla had many advantages in the Truck pull demonstration, but most of them are related to the fact that it is a very powerful, AWD, electric truck. And the main people that Tesla were targeting with this demo were not people who professionally judge truck pulling contests (or beauty contests), they were the millions of people out there who don't understand the advantages of electric cars and trucks. It doesn't have to be a perfectly equal contest. This is about sending a message to the larger 97% car and truck buying audience that EVs can actually compete against gas vehicles in terms of performance. Even though it is not critical in the EV lesson, I do also believe that even if all of the tasks to level the playing field by having a turbo diesel engine with tons of torque, a loaded truck bed on both trucks, and AWD and bigger tires on the F150, I still think that the Tesla Cybertruck would win. Ford does not want to set up a rematch because they already dominate this full sized truck market segment, and it would highlight the fact that they really should have come out with a plug-in hybrid F150 about 6 years ago when the released their Energi PHEV models, and that they won't even have their plug-in hybrid F150 until next year at the soonest, plus they won't have a comparable BEV F150 in showrooms for a long time after that. You don't have to like the Tesla Cybertruck's styling, but you cannot deny the advantages of having a $60K EV truck that is rugged and durable, can run from 0-60 in 2.9 seconds and go 500 miles between charges, carry and tow a seriously heavy load, convey many people in comfort, while using the energy of a Toyota Prius, and have the ability to charge up at home. The Cybertruck redefines what an EV truck can be, and what it is capable of doing. That is the purpose of the reveal and demonstrations. If it didn't makes sense, or feel fair, or otherwise excite you about the possibilities of the Tesla EV truck that is just fine. It's not for you. You are welcome to keep burning gas or diesel fuel, and/or wait a few more years to see what the traditional automakers build for their versions of an electric pickup truck.
For me, there are NO pickup trucks that are pretty. But that's OK because their purpose is not to win beauty contests, it is to be a practical, reliable, and functional vehicle. So I can forgive the Cybertruck's wild styling, just as I forgive the Rivian's awkward looking headlights. But I would be less embarrassed driving around in a Tesla Cybertruck than in the truly awful looking Silverado heavy duty truck.
Let's face it there are far too many questions about the Cybertruck, now. For starters, they claim to have three versions coming. Okay, that's fine. But, if you are going to have a two-motor version versus a one-motor version and rear-drive versus AWD and two, fast-acting electric motors, then you are talking apples and kumquats. At least, let's put the good ship ugly (oops, the Cybertruck) with one motor and RWD into the fray with the same type of truck from Ford. And, why not go a little further and take the Ford Hybrid and put the two together in a truck pull, with RWD only. Also, let's even out things by having the same grip patch available between trucks and their tires. And, let's put this on an even playing field instead of on a hill. Here are some questions that I have: what are the specs on the Tesla -- no annoucement there except the, I assume the three-motor version, does 0 to 60 in 2.7 seconds, but that's it for specs. Another apples-to-bananas reference. What is the output of the electric motors translated from electrical to horsepower reference? What is their torque? And, the 500-mile range only applies to the three-motor version, so what of the other versions. Also, let's get an independent reviewer behind the wheel to talk about handling, ride, interior comfort and support, design (I believe it has a 17-inch central screen to watch; how distracting is that large a screen?) And, no, pickups don't have to win beauty contests, but, does it has to be so ugly and why is the sail of the Tesla counter to its overall lines. Also, there were some specs mentioned in other places, such as the 3,500-pound capacity of the three-motor version? So, let's load it up to the max and see if it actually gets 500 miles on a charge? Hmmmm? And, the towing capability claims about 10K or so? So, now lets load up the Cybertruck to max and put a fifth-wheel on it? What's the range then? 78 miles or less? I don't know, I am guessing. Now, I don't dismiss your criticism out of hand, but, there are answers to your criticism just as there are questions to the missing specs from Tesla (accidentally on purpose?, it has happened in the past). And, do you really think Tesla will hits its production date? When Elon Musk started out and when he introduced models in the past they were buggy and they had to be slipped, sometimes a year or two? Just my thoughts.
I am sure that (IF) Ford said OK on a truck pull rematch, then they would be dictating terms about how the test would be performed, trucks outfitted, etc..but as a longtime truck sales leader Ford (corporate) knows that it is better for them to simply ignore Tesla's truck pull challenge entirely. They could of course have thrown in their F150 Hybrid, or even better, one of the prototype BEV F150s that was used for their train-pulling demo video. But again that would not guarantee a win, and it would highlight how far away from production these EV F150 models are from seeing showrooms. As far as the Cybertruck claims of acceleration and range goes, these are not areas in the past where Tesla has fallen short. They have only exceeded their performance estimates in real vehicles, and then even raised their capability (for free) after they were sold to customers (which is unprecedented in the auto industry). The current dual motor models are close enough in performance today to meet the Cybertruck's stated goals, and the specs, from HP/TQ, to weight, to range, to acceleration, for those comparable models are all available online today. Really the Cybertruck's weight is the only major unknown variable, and it is likely it is going to be something under 6,500lbs with the 3-motor drivetrain. I believe that the payload capacity was said to be around 6,500lbs, and the pulling capacity is 14,000lbs. And in a similar way that a gas or diesel truck is going to get lower fuel economy, the Cybertruck's range and acceleration will be affected by load. But like a fossil fuel powered car, the performance and efficiency losses should be maybe 10%-30% depending on load weight and conditions, but definitely nowhere near the 85% loss that you projected. If you check out the range loss of real life Model X owners who have hauled travel trailers long distances, you can see that the power consumption is reasonable considering the load, and it is certain that both the motor and battery capability will be improved in the Cybertruck over the Model X. The 3-motor drive train and batteries provided supercar/race car performance and durability when they tested early prototypes at the Nurburgring race track a few months ago when they "unofficially" set speed records at the track. As far as hitting their production dates go, I believe that they will actually release the Cybertruck ahead of their estimated goals. Tesla has been building their EVs for over a decade now, and initially the first Roadster was nearly experimental, and great strides were made with the Model S and Model X production. The huge jump in production scale with the Model 3 up to several thousand cars a week was a real challenge, but now with nearly 400,000 Model 3s built they have gotten most of the high volume production bugs worked out, and all indications are that the Model Y (which was originally slated to be sold in late 2020) will now be in customer's hands by summer of this coming year. So I am guessing that we may see the Cybertruck out before the estimated late-2021 due date, and the late-2022 due date for the 3-motor version. Tesla's 3-motor (Plaid) Model S and X are due within a year from now so the drive train side should be ready well before their estimated deadlines. The big question that I have is whether the Plaid models, the Cybertruck, and the new Tesla Roadster will use Tesla's Maxwell dry-electrode batteries and ultracapacitors to achieve their lofty goals of performance, range, and cost.