One of the big items of hype around the Tesla Cybertruck when it was revealed 4 years ago was that it would have an exoskeleton. Before we get to what that actually means, let’s look at the standard definition of an exoskeleton. From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, an exoskeleton is: “a hard supporting or protective structure (as of an insect, spider, or crustacean) on the outside of the body.” Instead of an internal skeleton like you and I have, it’s an external skeleton.
So, what does that mean with regard to cars and trucks, and specifically the Tesla Cybertruck? Theoretically, that would mean that some of the core supportive structure of the Cybertruck is visible on the outside. But we’ll get into more detail in a moment when looking at the patent application for this.
Before any of that, though, the reason I’m writing about this is actually that I thought based on recent headlines that Tesla had ditched the Cybertruck exoskeleton idea. I was starting to write about this big change based on reports in the Wall Street Journal (via Notebook Check), and then I discovered those reports seem to be wrong. (Maybe.) The core claim is that “Recent spy shots of their structural body parts at the Gigafactory in Texas didn’t whiff of exoskeleton. In fact, they simply looked like sections produced by Tesla’s cost saving gigacast method with support structures and crumple zones that all other vehicles sold in the US are built with.” In other words, this is not what some people were expecting when it comes to how the Cybertruck would look and be put together. However, it seems that what Elon Musk meant by “exoskeleton” is still what we’re getting.
Tesla filed a “Vehicle with Exoskeleton” patent application in May 2021. The abstract of that patent application explains what the company means regarding this term: “A vehicle having an exoskeleton exterior panel that provides crash resistance is described. The exterior panel may be formed from a monolithic metal sheet and attached to an exterior portion of the vehicle frame, and the exterior panel does not comprise an additional support structure. At least one component may be directly attached to the exterior panel, and the exterior panel may bear the load of the at least one component. Methods of manufacturing the vehicle are also described.”
So, yeah, the exoskeleton is there to provide more safety and is both a steel support structure and a part of the truck’s exterior. Here are pics of the diagrams from the patent application:
That all looks the same, no?
The Wall Street Journal article about this claims that “sources familiar with the matter” indicate that the exoskeleton was dumped “at least in part, to meet safety standards.” The only problem: as far as we can tell, the exoskeleton is still there and is part of the structural support of the Cybertruck. If we’re missing something, though, let us know! Maybe there were certain design elements that were dropped or changed in order to satisfy safety standards and testing?
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