Tesla’s Cybertruck, which was unveiled in 2019, was initially seen as a frontrunner in the race for an electric pick-up truck. However, the company has fallen behind in this market, and the Cybertruck’s mass production has been delayed until at least 2024. One reason for this delay is the material that the truck is made from: stainless steel.
Stainless steel is a relatively uncommon material in automobile production due to its cost, which is higher than that of the steel used by most automakers. It contains chromium and other ingredients that are in high demand, such as nickel and molybdenum. Additionally, stainless steel cannot be stamped into parts as easily as the more pliable steel used by most automakers, and it requires special welding techniques.
The use of stainless steel in the Cybertruck presents a challenge for Tesla, which has not shared any details on how it will overcome the difficulties of working with this material. In particular, stainless steel’s tendency to spring back to its original shape means that it cannot be crumpled in a crash like the steel used in most cars. This could expose passengers to more of the force from impact and make it difficult to absorb the energy of a crash around the driver, which is a critical piece of crash safety.
Moreover, while stainless steel is tougher than traditional steel and fiberglass vehicles, it is also more difficult to repair. The flat body panels make any damage more obvious, and the cost of repair is higher due to the difficulty of working with the material. Additionally, since Tesla is the only automaker working with stainless steel panels filled with more expensive metals and elements, it is unlikely to benefit from savings due to production scale.
source: The New York Times
Tesla’s reliance on stainless steel is not the only factor that has caused the company to fall behind in the EV truck market. Despite being the top EV manufacturer in the US, Tesla’s product line is becoming outdated, with the last new product introduced by the company, the Model Y, released in 2020. Traditional automakers such as Ford and GM are coming for Tesla’s lead, especially in the EV truck market.
Furthermore, traditional automakers are beginning to overtake Tesla in the development of autonomous vehicles, which were once Tesla’s bread and butter. Ford’s BlueCruise and GM’s Super Cruise have received high marks in car reviews, and Mercedes-Benz has announced that it will be the first automaker to bring Level 3 autonomy to US roads. Meanwhile, Tesla is facing investigations from state and federal offices for flaws in its Level 2 Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Beta software, while some of its customers are concerned about the mistakes made by the software.
While the Cybertruck’s stainless steel body presents a unique challenge for Tesla, it is not the only factor that has caused the company to fall behind in the EV truck market. Tesla’s reliance on this material, which is more expensive and more difficult to work with than traditional steel, is just one of the many challenges facing the company. Additionally, traditional automakers are beginning to overtake Tesla in both the EV and autonomous vehicle markets, putting Tesla’s position as the top EV manufacturer in the US at risk.