Why is the Cybertruck the most difficult car in Tesla’s history?

It is rare for a company to achieve the same level of controversy and sales of its own products, and Tesla is one of them.

The Cybertruck, which has just started to be delivered, is destined to cause huge controversy from the day it was released in 2019. This handsome and ugly mass-produced concept car is the most powerful pickup truck and a monster that is very difficult to manufacture. During the 4-year waiting period, many people did not even think that it would finally be put into production.

This doubt comes not only from its strange appearance, but also from the difficulty of manufacturing it, which even caused Tesla itself to stop manufacturing several times.

One of the important reasons is because of the hard bones covered by this big guy – super-hard 30X cold-rolled stainless steel.

It's not the first, but it's the most radical

Tesla showed a video of a Cybertruck dragging a 911 to beat another 911 at the delivery ceremony. Musk quipped slightly sarcastically:

Even towing a 911 is faster than a 911.

Choosing 911 as the opponent not only shows that Cybertruck can also have excellent performance as a pickup truck, but it also has another purpose.

In 1967, Porsche built a Porsche 911S model with a stainless steel body. It was later kept in a museum and did not successfully enter the mass market because the new material increased the weight of the Porsche by 20 to 80%. This was due to performance. A big no-no in sports car production.

The exploration of using stainless steel as a body material can be traced back to the 1930s.

In order to increase the sales of stainless steel in that era, Allegheny Technology Company and Ford Motor Company jointly launched six polished Model 68 Deluxe.

▲ Model 68 Deluxe. Picture from: souhu.com

These custom cars can maintain such a reflective appearance without the need for maintenance over decades of use. Stainless steel generally does not rust, and there is no need to paint the entire body. Moreover, the strength of such a car body is higher than that of ordinary sheet metal, and it will not be easily deformed in the event of a collision, thus ensuring higher safety.

This was the fundamental reason why many companies wanted to introduce stainless steel into car body materials at that time. However, its excellent characteristics made the stamping machine more susceptible to damage during processing, and its difficulty in welding was not suitable for the design of this material at the time. It is widely used in the concept, and the biggest advantage of stainless steel has also become its biggest obstacle to the public.

Although it failed to reach the market, such a unique appearance successfully entered the screen. In "Back to the Future" released in 1985, the time-traveling sports car DMC-12 officially adopted a stainless steel body. It is still the "dream car" of many people.

▲DMC-12. Picture from: oarington.com

It is a relatively satisfactory ending to use a classic work to bring an end to the attempts of stainless steel in automotive materials in the last century. The next time the two collide again will be the Cybertruck 35 years later.

The stainless steel used in the Cybertruck has a very catchy name – super-hard 30X cold-rolled stainless steel. It sounds just like its appearance and does not belong to this era.

Musk introduced that this is an alloy variant developed from 300 series stainless steel. In fact, we have all seen this material before and even have it. Open the thermos cup at hand and there should be the following words inside:

It turns out that we are so close to future technology, and Tesla used the "cold rolling" process to increase the martensite in the material based on the 300 series, raising the yield strength of stainless steel to the same level as the tensile strength.

In layman's terms, this process can increase the hardness of the metal. Compared with other metals, cold-rolled stainless steel will have a significant improvement in strength. That is to say, the Cybertruck not only looks strong, but it is actually so.

There are various voices in the industry regarding the interpretation of "30X". Some experts believe that this means that the new material developed by Tesla is 30 times stronger than the general 300 series stainless steel. Some people think that it is the 300 series that Muska mentioned, just a replacement. Got a cooler name.

When it comes to scientific research results and industry secrets, it is difficult for us to prove which statement is reliable, but there are three things that can be determined:

  • This is a new material independently developed by Tesla and has applied for a patent.
  • 30X stainless steel is harder than previous similar materials
  • The surface of SpaceX’s starship is also made of the same metal.

▲ Starship. Picture from: souhu.com

When a civilian car can use the same aviation-grade materials in a short period of time, and both products are produced by the same boss, some people even have wild ideas, saying that the Cybertruck may be helping SpaceX clean up inventory scraps, which is quite interesting. It feels like LV uses small leather materials to make lipstick bags and keychains.

A tough nut to crack, and a lunatic who dares to operate

Of course, this "inventory theory" is just a joke, expressing people's doubts about Tesla's material decisions.

The exploration of stainless steel in the last century has shown the advantages of stainless steel, but the shortcomings discovered have already proved that this is an impossible road, or that it cannot lead to mass production.

To understand Tesla's persistence in stainless steel, we need to go back to the name of this new car and find the answer – Truck.

▲Picture from: cars.tvbs.com

Civilian pickup trucks are not common in China. Even if you occasionally see one, it is difficult for the owner to use all its functions. Pickup trucks on the other side of the ocean have a long history. We will not go into this history. The Truck, with its obvious tool attributes, must be a right-hand assistant for farmers and orchardists. Its cargo towing capacity alone is not comparable to that of an ordinary family car. Comparable.

Most traditional pickup trucks use non-load-bearing bodies. The advantage of this structure is that the chassis can absorb most bumps and impacts. The vibration of the body will be greatly weakened due to the separate design, and the body will not be deformed due to rugged terrain. The chassis Able to withstand all suffering.

However, the handling and riding experience are also very poor because of this design, and the space inside the car has become very crowded because of the split type.

The driving conditions of civilian cars are relatively stable, and comfort is placed at the top of the list of reasons for buying a car. The load-bearing body can fully meet the driver's driving control needs, but the lack of structural strength of the body also makes it difficult to become an excellent tool vehicle.

▲Bear-bearing body. Picture from: Toyota.com

Are there any civilian cars that combine comfort and functionality? That’s what the Cybertruck does.

If the "model" is simply designed as a pickup truck but uses a load-bearing body, it still cannot cope with bumpy road sections. So the super-hard stainless steel body is solving this problem.

Relying on its own hardness, it greatly makes up for the shortcomings of the lack of torsion resistance of the load-bearing body. It’s like an exoskeleton is propped up on the body of the car to meet the challenges of the road together with the body-in-white. Musk named this subversive body structure “Exoskeleton”.

How hard is super-hard 30X cold-rolled stainless steel? In fact, the viral screenshot below explains it all.

It is bulletproof. According to Musk's actual test, no bullet penetrated the car door. Ommy Gun, MP5 and 9mm pistols have nothing to do with this big steel skin.

This "hardness" greatly enhances the body's ability to resist deformation and collision, and can also disperse excessive impulse in the event of a collision, protecting everyone in the car.

The three originally contradictory conditions of ample space, high strength and comfortable driving are merged together by the addition of "stainless steel".

And relying on the 18% elements Tesla added to stainless steel, it can form a layer of chromium oxide film on the surface of the vehicle to isolate direct contact between oxygen and water. Therefore, Cybertruck is inherently able to prevent metal oxidation and rust. The car paint The big trouble was finally solved by Tesla from the source.

In order to control this stainless steel, which is as stubborn as Tesla, Tesla and Musk have suffered a lot.

Musk said in a conference call that building the Cybertruck was a "self-digging" choice. Now it seems that this statement is not an exaggeration, even a bit euphemistic.

It only took SpaceX three years from the establishment of the Starship project to the completion of the first demonstrator, and this is still the largest rocket in the world.

It took 4 years from the release of Cybertruck in 2019 to mass production in 2023.

It’s not that car manufacturing is more difficult than spacecraft, but it’s really difficult to put stainless steel into a pickup truck according to Tesla’s requirements.

High-strength materials are difficult to deform, so traditional stamping machines have no way to deal with 30X stainless steel. Even if they try hard, it will be "800 damage to the enemy and 10,000 self-loss." The consumable cost of the processing machine alone , it is impossible for Cybertruck to support the mass production stage.

Tesla used two relatively clever methods to solve this problem, which is not perfect.

  1. "Use violence to fight violence" : Defeating powerful opponents requires more powerful force. Tesla customized the world's first 8,000-ton die-casting machine for Cybertruck.
  2. "Model Reorganization" : Even if the largest tonnage machine is used, after all, the strength of 30X stainless steel is there, so traditional vehicle curves are unlikely to appear on this stainless steel body. Tesla uses a method similar to origami airplanes. It is first cut with a laser and then bent into shape.

Look at it this way, the Cybertruck’s alternative appearance is not to be unique, but the product of compromise due to materials.

However, despite such a square design, the Cybertruck's drag coefficient is still controlled at 0.335Cd. Before this, the average drag level of pickup trucks was 0.5Cd. Even the Dodge RAM and Toyota Tacoma, which have achieved the ultimate, are both greater than 0.35Cd. , low wind resistance also makes it possible for the beast version to accelerate to 100 kilometers in 2.7 seconds.

It is difficult to manufacture the vehicle itself, and it is not easy to adapt to the traffic regulations of various countries. The front of mainstream models is generally made relatively "soft" because it is necessary to ensure that in the event of an extreme traffic accident, there is a slight chance of survival for the pedestrians who are hit.

Although the rebellious Cybertruck can ensure safety inside the car, once a pedestrian or even another car collides with it seriously, the damage caused will be fatal, just like a tank running over a toy car.

We still don’t know whether Tesla will optimize the material of the front trunk in this regard, but judging from the published data, this will be a major obstacle for Cybertruck to enter the global market.

▲Cybertruck. Picture from: CNBC

The technical details about "super-hard 30X cold-rolled stainless steel" are almost these. The advantageous characteristics of the material itself can indeed be the reason why Tesla chose it, but it is not sufficient, because for an electric pickup truck, it has high torsional rigidity and solidity. , lightweight and energy-saving "aluminum" may be a better choice.

The introduction of new materials into the mass market requires the support of sales, otherwise it will only usher in short-lived flashes like the 911 and DMC-12. The ending of stainless steel should be the same as carbon fiber, becoming exclusive to a very small number of cars.

Regardless of the material, what other reasons can support Musk’s choice?

Engineering Crossover Methodology

Musk often emphasizes one of his working philosophies, the Engineering Intersection Methodology, describing a five-step engineering protocol:

  • Question and challenge existing requirements to make them more reasonable
  • Remove unnecessary processes
  • Simplify or optimize designs to avoid overcomplication
  • Acceleration cycle time
  • Automate processes to increase efficiency and productivity

As early as 2017, he connected the core technical departments of Tesla and Space Reduced the manufacturing time of Model 3 by 8 hours.

The current Cybertruck is just another product of this methodology. Because of the existence of SpaceX, Tesla is determined to use aerospace materials; because of the material advantages of the starship, Truck is covered with Cyber.

It can be said that this is an improved version of "Fordism" in the 21st century, with extremely high production efficiency and extreme cost reduction, and all possible methods of cost reduction and efficiency improvement are integrated into all the businesses controlled by Musk.

Tesla and Musk are themselves full of contradictions.

On the one hand, it often arouses everyone's disgust, such as canceling the radar, taking off the instrument panel, and removing the gear handle and paddles, similar mysterious operations; on the other hand, you have to admire it for relying on this kind of stubbornness to become a The world's largest car company by market value has built the world's largest rocket.

However, it seems that only this kind of self-confidence and stubbornness that "the whole world is drunk and I am alone" can make such a sci-fi Cybertruck truly drive on the road, even though it still does not seem to belong to this planet.

If humans do land on Mars one day, the Cybertruck should be the first civilian electric vehicle most likely to drive on it.

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