QOTD: Tesla's Pickup Truck - Where Do You Start?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

It’s sometimes hard keeping up with the specific engineering feats Tesla actually plans to pull off and the forward-thinking visions uttered just to keep the tech press salivating (and its readers buying up shares). Is CEO Elon Musk actually sending a tunnel with an elevator in it to Jupiter? Wait a minute — it’s possible that promise fell victim to the purple-monkey-dishwasher chain of distortion before it reached this author’s ears.

One thing we’re more or less assured of now, following Musk’s stint at the Twitter pulpit Tuesday, is that Tesla will build an electric pickup truck. Yes, just as soon as the compact Model Y’s out the door. This means Tesla fan club members and curious buyers will have to wait until after the Model Y crossover finishes development and finds a place in which it can be built — not an overnight process by any means.

What we’re left with is a pickup that’s a blank slate in terms of size and design. Grab your pencils.

Yes, you’re being tasked with ensuring the Model T (or whatever it’ll be called) appeals to the largest group of truck buyers imaginable. In this exercise, there are no worries about development costs or manufacturing capacity. Cash is flowing like cheap shooters on New Year’s Eve. Everything’s just hunky-dory at Tesla.

Back at November’s launch of the Tesla Semi and second-generation Roadster, Musk flashed an image of the thing you see above. A pickup truck based on the Semi, minus a rear axle. Pictured carrying a Ford F-150 in its bed and theorized to be drivable by an operator with a Class 6 license, this cab-forward megatruck never seemed serious. But that didn’t stop Ford spokesperson Mike Levine from trashing the concept on Twitter earlier this week:

Tesla pickup rendering makes zero practical sense. I added a person for scale. Reach into cargo box? Not without a ladder. Tow a gooseneck / 5th wheel? Only with a custom trailer. Tow conventional? Only with 20″ drop hitch. Easy to park? Good luck. pic.twitter.com/ctX5k5kQrh

— Mike Levine (@mrlevine) December 27, 2017

On Tuesday, Musk tweeted that the truck would probably fall squarely into the full-size category, positioning it alongside the biggest Detroit Three sellers. It might even grow a bit larger “to account for a really gamechanging (I think) feature I’d like to add,” Musk said.

Think of the market, then think of that blank page. Is Musk on the right track to right-sizing this future model? Should it go bigger, or could Tesla have a hit on its hands if it went the midsize route? What’s the minimum acceptable range and payload? Would you go with a cab-forward design to maximize utility, or would a latter-day Corvair Rampside scare off potential converts already spooked by the missing gas tank? So many questions…

You’re in charge, B&B.

[Image: Tesla]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • DenverMike DenverMike on Dec 30, 2017

    If it was a depiction of a class III dually pickup "in scale", meaning the exact footprint of largest F-350/450, it would be believable, as something usable, as opposed to a show truck of comical proportions. I'm sure it started out as such, a class III "concept", and the F-150 in the bed was an afterthought, added for folly or dramatic effect. But it would mean a 16 foot bed at minimum, a 9 ft wide bed/cab, and at least 12 feet wide at the duals. Not happening. As a class III pickup concept, it's interesting no doubt. The cab-forward crew cab design, if that's what we're looking at here, could mean an up to 11 ft long bed on a 200 inch wheelbase, which would be a more efficient use of space, although 8' is plenty and a 3' shorter dually crew-cab (8' bed) would be better appreciated.

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    • DenverMike DenverMike on Dec 30, 2017

      @Vulpine Beds have edges to set boxes, sit on, etc, but max vehicle width is 102 inches (8.5ft, CDL or no), so our duallys barely make it. Yeah there's no call for cartoonishly large, F-150 haulers with 16 foot beds. There's zero need to reinvent the "dually" and based on a class 8 semi would be stupid Fully electric 1/2 ton pickups would be the logical place to start anyway, and before electric compact and subcompact cars if you ask me.

  • La834 La834 on Jan 01, 2018

    Cab-over, forward-control pickup trucks were tried in the U.S. by Chevy, Jeep, and Volkswagen, all to little interest despite their space-efficiency advantages. I don't think anything has changed that would make them more popular today.

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    • Vulpine Vulpine on Jan 01, 2018

      Actually, they were dropped because of Ralph Nader's book.It wasn't that they weren't popular, it was because someone decided they were unsafe and opened a massive campaign against any car they deemed "Unsafe At Any Speed."