A weekly look at all that sucks in the car world, plus some good bits
No sooner had Elon Musk, mega-boss of the Tesla electric car company, announced his electric car company than the predators known as the giant car makers descended upon him to ridicule his ambition. Those who praise competition in the market place as healthy hate competition. Hardly a week has gone by without an article appearing in the press or in a car magazine that wasn’t composed to demean and denigrate Tesla. Petrol-heads follow suit. And so it has persisted right up to and including the recent Los Angeles preview of his latest masterpiece, an electric pick-up truck. Musk promised he’d deliver a truck like no other and he’s done exactly that. When a test of side screen glass went awry and the glass cracked but did not shatter, they mocked again. Today, Musk announced orders of over 150,000 trucks.
“146 thousand cyber-truck orders so far, with 42% choosing dual, 41% tri & 17% single motor,” Musk said in a tweet, adding the orders were achieved without any advertising or paid endorsements. For a company dismissed as a failure from its start, Tesla is doing just fine. I know he has ruffled industry feathers, and by pushing them hard to achieve deadlines, I’m sure he has a few too many disgruntled staff, but you have to admire his tenacity. I should add that his appearance at the LA preview showed a stressed, overweight Musk. The strain must be getting to him.
Tesla’s implicit desire to shake up the car industry has led to Tesla approaching every aspect of designing, building and selling cars in genuinely different ways – which has been both a strength and weakness. It’s certainly been influential: just look how many car firms have recently unveiled cars with dashboards dominated by a big touchscreen.
The ‘Cybertruck’ – now one word in Teslaspeak – is an adventurous, bold step. Moreover, when trying to enter a sector as large and hugely competitive as the US pick-up market, Tesla’s new truck will genuinely stand out. You definitely aren’t going to mistake it for a Ford F-150 or Toyota Tundra, and you might not choose to buy them.
Tesla attracts a fiercely loyal following by appealing to a different sort of car buyer than the conventional. And if the Cybertruck can deliver its claimed performance and range, it should be a viable option as a truly alternative electric pick-up. Every part of the truck is unmistakably a pick-up but not as we know it, Captain Kirk.
The biggest selling vehicle in America is the pick-up. As the Chinese proverb asks, why bother to clean the rice when it is selling briskly? When so many people live in rural areas miles from the nearest town, a pick-up is the best mode of transporting people, livestock and stuff. In this case, a top-of-the-line Cybertruck that offers 500 miles on a single charge – a truck scores over a saloon for battery pack space – is the one to choose.
Tesla is no longer the hick from the sticks, the industry outsider: it’s proven it can make outstanding long-distance and city cars though the purchase price is high. Producing commercial vehicles as well as saloons and sports cars puts Tesla in the big league.
The all-electric Cybertruck is the same length (5.87m) as traditional competitors, but that’s where the similarities end. For starters, it features a radical wedge-shape design unlike anything else, which Tesla CEO Elon Musk insists is close to production.
The Cybertruck’s promised spec list is equally stunning. Three power-train options will be offered with one, two or three electric motors. The single motor, rear-wheel-drive-only version is said to do 0-60mph in 6.5 seconds, with no quoted battery size but a claimed range of 250 miles. It can also tow 3400kg and has a 1360kg payload. This is said to cost from $39,900 (around £30,600) before any government incentives. The truck’s suspension is an adaptive air system with adjustable ride height; Musk claims the maximum height will be 16 inches, with the ability to be adjusted up and down by 4 inch.
Next up is the mid-range dual-motor variant, offering all-wheel drive, a claimed 0-60mph time of 4.5 seconds and the ability to tow more than 4500kg, said to cost $49,900 (£38,300) before incentives.
The crowning glory is the top-level truck using Tesla’s latest tri-motor ‘Plaid’ EV power-train. Priced from $69,900 (£53,700), its specs include a claimed 500-mile range on a single charge, 0-60mph in just 2.9 seconds and the ability to complete the quarter mile in just over 10 seconds. The towing capacity is 6350kg.
“Solar panels on the roof that charge the car as it drives? We’re doing it. A new matte black finish? “Sure,” he says. The Tesla CEO even suggested a second, “smaller” version of the Cybertruck would make sense in the “long term.”
I’m sure some will find the Cybertruck’s uncompromising geometric design brutalist. I like it for its bravery to be different, and I especially like its tailgate that can be extended right down to the ground to give ease of access for loading. It will shake up the big car manufacturers.
GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS
A cyclist speaks
Soon as I publish good ideas for pedestrian and cyclist safety, trolls and cycling psychos leap in with ludicrous claims I am punishing victims. Last week I complained about pedestrians and cyclist wearing dark clothes in dark, rainy days. I did that because even at the best of times, driving very, very slowly, both can be almost invisible among traffic. I got this wise response from cyclist Hugh Wallace:
“I’m a cyclist as well as a motorist (and a former police officer) and am gobsmacked by how cyclist appear to be completely unconcerned about their own safety. In day time and summer I am clad in hi-viz orange and in winter the reflective gear comes out after 4pm. In winter I have at least 2 rear lights at all times in the dark and often during the day except in the middle of summer on bright days. I’ve front flashing lights too, though my attitude is that I am looking out for everyone coming at me from the front, so it is less important that they see me than I see them”.
Half of Britain’s 41 million drivers think the nation’s crumbling roads are getting worse. Forty-nine per cent of motorists said the condition of their local roads – those other than motorways and A-roads – had deteriorated in the last year, according to the RAC. The majority blamed potholes and other surface issues. Just 11% said conditions had improved, and 40% said there was no real change.
While on the subject of suitable gear for dark days and nights, are the stiff leather shoes or heeled boots really necessary when driving? Or will they give you sore, restricted foot movement making driving awkward and long journeys unbearable. Wide boot soles can have you hit accelerator and brake at the same time. Buy slim driving shoes so you can feel the pedal with the soles of your foot. Belts can be uncomfortable for long stints and so can tight clothing. Take your coat off if you are not too cold because this can not only make you feel hot and flustered; hoods impair sight lines – yes, I’ve seen drivers wearing hoods! Lastly, grab yourself a non-alcoholic drink for the car because there is nothing worse than driving when you are dehydrated with a sandpaper mouth, pan dry throat and the beginnings of a headache.