Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

CleanTechnica
Tesla unveil
Cat meme Cybertruck made by Johnna. Image by Tesla.

Cars

Tesla Pickup — Cybertruck or Cybercar?

The recent excellent article by my colleague Jennifer Sensiba about the advantages of a body-on-frame architecture for trucks created a heated discussion. The versatility of a body-, or better, structure-on-frame architecture for the hundreds of different special purpose applications of professional vehicles is beyond dispute. The cost advantage of building one-off structures on such a platform are huge.

Photo by Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

The recent excellent article by my colleague Jennifer Sensiba about the advantages of a body-on-frame architecture for trucks created a heated discussion. The versatility of a body-, or better, structure-on-frame architecture for the hundreds of different special purpose applications of professional vehicles is beyond dispute. The cost advantage of building one-off structures on such a platform are huge.

The question is whether the latest Tesla model is a commercial vehicle (for which this might matter) or a mass-market passenger vehicle (a “car” in good American parlance). A commercial vehicle with hundreds of special-purpose versions should be built on a frame. A mass-market passenger vehicle is better served by a unibody architecture that enables low costs for millions of nearly identical vehicles.

Tesla unveil

Photo by Tesla and Johnna Crider | CleanTechnica

The USA and Europe each have an auto market of between 17 and 18 million vehicles a year. In Europe, there are 2.5 million commercial vehicles of all types sold per year. The rest are passenger or luxury vehicles. In the USA, there are just over 5 million passenger vehicles. The rest are “trucks.”

Perhaps there are slight differences in the vehicles purchased on each side of the pond. In Europe, we have more public transport buses. We also have more rail and shipping, which could lead to fewer semi trucks for road transport than in the USA. This does not explain the 10 million unit difference between the commercial vehicles in the EU and the trucks in the USA.

In the EU, the classification is functional. When a vehicle is used to generate revenue, it is a commercial vehicle. All others are passenger vehicles. Taxi cabs are the main exception to this rule.

In the USA, the classification is technical. When it is a body on frame, it is a truck. When it is a unibody design, or “exoskeleton” as Musk calls it, it is a car. Of course, there are also exceptions. A unibody SUV, better known as a CUV, is still a truck. The Tesla pickup will also be classified as a truck. As always, technology evolves and does not respect the boundaries of last year.

When looking at these numbers and thinking of a Walmart parking lot, or parents dropping off their children at school, it is clear that many vehicles are built on a frame, like luxury pickups and SUVs, which are generally used as passenger vehicles.

This difference is not only created by a difference in customer preferences. Government regulations concerning taxes and emissions are also influencing this market development.

In 2018, there were about 2.9 million pickup trucks sold in the USA. Of those, there were likely about 2 million passenger pickup trucks. Of the about 1 million commercial pickups, I guess half of them are normal run-of-the-mill pickups, without any special enhancements.

A quick back of the envelope gives ~83% that could use a unibody design. I could be too optimistic, but it is unlikely lower than 75%. For 75% of pickup buyers, a unibody would make a better vehicle at a lower price. It would lead to special purpose commercial vehicles prices rising for the reasons Jennifer describes. The commercial trucks lose the economy of scale provided by the passenger cars built on a frame.

The moral question is, should the standard “pickup car” buyers subsidize the special purpose “pickup-truck” buyers?

 
Don't want to miss a cleantech story? Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!
 

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
Advertisement
 
 

Written By

Grumpy old man. The best thing I did with my life was raising two kids. Only finished primary education, but when you don’t go to school, you have lots of time to read. I switched from accounting to software development and ended my career as system integrator and architect. My 2007 boss got two electric Lotus Elise cars to show policymakers the future direction of energy and transportation. And I have been looking to replace my diesel cars with electric vehicles ever since. At the end of 2019 I succeeded, I replaced my Twingo diesel for a Zoe fully electric. And putting my money where my mouth is, I have bought Tesla shares. Intend to keep them until I can trade them for a Tesla car. I added some Fastned, because driving without charging is no fun.

Comments

You May Also Like

Cars

On Tesla’s Q4 2022 and full-year 2022 conference call for shareholders (still occurring as I’m typing this), we received updates on Tesla Cybertruck production...

Batteries

Tesla plans to invest another $3.6 billion to expand the Nevada Gigafactory to make the Semi and 4680 battery cells.

Cars

Australian media is awash with news of companies transforming Toyota’s Land Cruisers and Hilux into electric utes. One must ask, is Toyota blind to...

Clean Transport

As Tesla prepares to begin producing the Cybertruck later this year, some are pointing out how the electric truck’s bold, futuristic design is at...

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.