As a full-time traveler who has been living in RVs for more than 11 years, I am very excited to see the development of electric vehicles and the charging infrastructure maturing and becoming more mainstream over the last decade. Tesla has been the tip of the spear innovating and pushing the industry forward at a dizzying pace.
The Tesla Cybertruck was one of the best kept secrets in the EV industry and is safe to say that the design caught just about everyone by surprise. It has been one of the most polarizing vehicle designs for as far as I can remember. People have compared it to the Pontiac Aztec, the Delorean and more than a few people have said it looks like something their kid drew. But we have to remember that just like people, the Cybertruck should not be solely judged by its outward appearance. I think it is actually an amazing vehicle and one that only Tesla could have created. Let me explain.
Who Buys and Drives Trucks?
It should be of no surprise to hear that about 84% of all pickup buyers are male in the United States. And with the best selling truck being the Ford F-150, the loyalty of trucks runs really deep. If you pay any attention at all to conversations between truck owners, brand loyalty is everything. A Ford F-150 owner is most likely to buy a F-150 and drive it for a few years before selling or trading it in for another F-150. If you are Tesla trying to break into the truck market, you are not going to get anywhere building a truck that looks like the Ford F-150.
A lot of people expected the Tesla Cybertruck to take on the same design language of the existing Tesla vehicles like the Model S, Model X and Model 3. The modern and smooth exterior makes a lot of sense for sedans and SUVs but clearly Tesla did not go down that road as many people have predicted.
But the truck market is way too different than the sedan market for something like that to really work. Because truck owners are so loyal to their make and model, simply building an electric truck that fits the status quo in terms of design is not going to win many existing truck owners over.
Instead what Tesla chose to do, wisely so in my opinion, is to go with a radically different design. With every other vehicle copying the design language of the Model S and Model 3, it would almost seem that if Tesla designed a truck that people expected to see, it would already feel old and outdated. After all, we all already saw the Rivian truck and what that looks like. The Bolinger B1 is essentially an electric version of an old Bronco. We frankly don’t need another one that just rehashes old ideas.
What we do know about people who drive trucks is that they want something that looks rugged as well as actually being tough and durable. Their unexpected and polarizing design not only delivered on both, they did it in a very practical way.
It Is a Very Practically Designed Truck
“Practical, you say?” Yeah, I actually think this design they ended up on is not only to be different and shocking but also practical. Remember all of the production troubles Tesla had in the previous models in order to meet their demands? Elon Musk himself spent months living in the factory where they produce their cars in Fremont, California to oversee and solve problems on the fly as they appeared in the production line. It is certainly out of those troubles where some of the decision to go with this streamline, planar design came about. Compared to building up the tooling to stamp compound curves and assembling them to form seamless gaps in each vehicle, the Cybertruck will be vastly easier to assemble by simply cutting and folding sheets of stainless steel alloy to form the entire frame of the vehicle since it is what they are calling an ‘exoskeleton’ instead of the traditional body and frame design for trucks.
Another massive advantage Tesla has over all of the other vehicle manufacturers is Elon Musk’s connection with SpaceX. By utilizing the material science SpaceX has developed in building their stainless-steel clad ‘Starship’, they were likely able to avoid the costly expense of research and experimentation in finding just the right material for the vehicle. The fact that Tesla can likely leverage the expertise SpaceX already gained in working with this material as well as using its supply chain gives them an unparalleled advantage.
If stainless steel is good enough for the Starship then it is good enough for me. Also unlike traditional carbon steel, rust is not going to be a concern. That means not having to paint the vehicle will further reduce the production cost of the Cybertruck. Even though paint is not necessary, paint will be an option likely to come at an extra cost.
An RVer’s Take On the Truck
OK so at last I will get around to talking about how this truck is the best thing to happen to an RVer in decades. A lot of my fellow full-time travelers have long dreamed about the day when we can all go electric. Most of us have been driving around in gas guzzling trucks to pull our home on wheels out of necessity. We know that in the United States, even for us to drive a diesel truck, it still makes us far greener than the average household since we don’t produce as much waste or use as many resources in all other ways. But we all want to do better for our environment and we knew one day the electric truck would save the day.
We need all of the heavy-duty features the Cybertruck provides like its 14,000 lb towing capacity, 3,500 lb payload and 500 mile range. While towing a heavy trailer like our 7,500 lb Airstream, it will probably get closer to 300 miles on a charge with the higher efficiency of the tri-motor version. That is still plenty and is comparable to what I got with my F-250 Super Duty with the 6.7L PowerStroke diesel while towing. I know plenty of people who tow with a Toyota Tundra or Sequoia with the 5.7L V-8 that only get around 200 miles per fill up when towing. The one ability that gas or diesel trucks will not be able to match is its potential to power everything in our Airstream using its charging port built right into the bed. This feature was only shown at the very end of the reveal when an electric ATV was brought out and plugged into the charging port in the bed. Not a lot of details about it yet but it would be a great feature for RV boondockers.
To have a range of 500 miles for the top-tier, tri-motor Cybertruck, it is likely that the battery bank will be north of 200 kilowatt-hours in size. That is twice as large as the current top of the line Model S which has a 100 kilowatt-hours battery. To put that in perspective to the battery bank of a modern and high-end camper with 200 Ah of lithium batteries, it has more than 83 times the battery capacity. With a fully charged battery in the Cybertruck, we would be able to plug in our Airstream and run its air conditioner on full blast off of the truck’s power for almost a week straight day and night!
This to me is the one of the most important features of any electric truck as an RVer. If I can tow a couple of hundred miles to my next destination and have a charging station within a 30 minute drive from my boondocking spot, I will be able to tether the camper right to the truck and have all the electricity I need for weeks at a time. Whenever I need to run into town for groceries or water or any other kind of supplies, I can park it at a charging station, top it off and be good to go again.
It was also later confirmed by Elon Musk that the sliding bed cover could have the potential of being a photo-voltaic array capable of producing 15 miles of range or more in a single day. Again, another unique competitive advantage for Tesla because if its ownership of Solar City. If you do the math, it is about 6 kilowatt-hours of power regenerated each day. I think that is optimistic but even at half of that output it would be plenty to sustain a boondocking stay. This will also ensure that you are never stranded if you accidentally drain all of the trucks battery with your camper. Although there will certainly be some integrated safe guards that prevents one from doing that anyways.
Whether you loved it or hated it when you first saw it, it is likely to grow on some of you over time. Tesla knows that they will not build a truck that everyone will love. They just need to build a truck that enough people will love. With a quarter million pre-orders already taken just 3 days after the announcement, I’d say they have achieved that. Sure it is only a hundred bucks and fully refundable, but I am excited to see all this competition in the truck space. Finally companies are building vehicles that us full-time RVers can use. Not only will it be a product we can use, it is a product we can benefit from in more ways than any other type of user.
With the outrageous yet practical design the Cybertruck will be a polarizing product for years to come. Will other manufacturers follow suit in mass producing concept-like vehicles? A lot of people don’t like the attention driving a Tesla gets and aren’t interested in making a statement with the vehicle they drive. Unfortunately driving a Tesla has become that statement. Much like the Toyota Priuses of the 2000s, Tesla have become a political statement for their owners. It is an unfortunate side effect to an otherwise very promising fleet of vehicles. With more than a year before people actually can get their hands on them, there will be a lot of time for the shock to wear off and its unique design approach to feel normal.
With a starting price of $39k and topping out at $69k before added options like paint color and solar panels, it is not a cheap vehicle. One might argue that it is cheap for a vehicle of its type and very competitive with other internal-combustion engine trucks. Sure, but I would say that many Americans have been priced out of those trucks too. At least with a fossil-fuel truck there are used options available at a far lower price. As much as I like this truck, it still has a lot of challenges ahead.
Just so you know, I am not the pre-ordering type so the answer is no, I did not put down a deposit. There are more reasons than that since we no longer live in and tow our Airstream and have been traveling across Europe in a van. The aforementioned benefits just don’t quite apply to me right now. But all things considered, looks like the time will soon come for electric vehicles to be practical for us full-time RVers.
I hope this has given you another perspective on this radically new electric vehicle and maybe helped decide if it is right for you. For more content like this, feel free to subscribe to our newsletter.
Dan · June 15, 2021 at 4:48 am
My wife and I preordered. Should get ours just in time for her retirement in 4 years. We plan to travel and camp in it, initially in the be of the truck but perhaps eventually adding a camper feature such as the Cyberlander or similar as more options emerge. We hate towing campers and like to stay nimble and travel, not stay in one spot. We have dreamed of a class B camper van for years and have saved. With the $50K+ we have now saved up, we could either get a 15-year-old camper van or a brand new Cybertruck. We chose the truck. Brand new, no gasoline expense, no emissions, and no payments. Retirement here we come!