Leaked documents indicate that the Tesla Cybertruck’s delayed development is going worse than anticipated.

Tesla has gained notoriety for making ambitious promises and experiencing prolonged development periods. The Tesla Semi, which was unveiled in 2017, has only recently become available on a limited scale this past Spring. Similarly, the Tesla Roadster, also revealed in 2017, is still in the development phase. As for the Tesla Cybertruck, an electric pickup truck revealed exclusively in 2019, its promised delivery has been delayed from 2020 to at least 2024. However, recent leaked documents from Tesla’s German operations shed light on the reasons behind the Cybertruck’s significant delays and reveal potential design and engineering flaws.

According to a leaked report from January 2022, part of a collection of 100 GB of files shared with Wired by a whistle blower and originally obtained by the German outlet Handelsblatt, the preproduction Cybertruck prototypes are significantly behind schedule. These prototypes are plagued by major issues in various areas, including power-train, braking, suspension, structural integrity, and sealing. Now, let’s examine the reported problems in more detail.

Significant issues with the brakes

The braking and chassis tuning aspects of the Tesla Cybertruck are posing significant concerns for the company. Typically, these are early stages in the development process of an automobile. According to reports from Wired, Tesla engineers had set a target of achieving a rating of 7 out of 10, denoting a “fair” performance on the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) rating scale. However, the leaked report reveals that the Cybertruck received a score of 4, indicating a “poor” performance in testing. The issues highlighted include excessive brake pedal travel, brake dive, and inconsistent stopping. The leaked document also suggests that Tesla customers would likely be “very dissatisfied” with the braking behavior of the Cybertruck.

Suspension tuning issues

Tesla is encountering significant challenges with the suspension tuning of the Cybertruck. The truck is believed to employ a Model X-based air suspension with double A-arms at all four corners. However, it is reportedly plagued by several issues. According to Handelsblatt, the Cybertruck exhibits excessive body roll, a sense of floating at moderate speeds, and a phenomenon referred to as “motor boating” during acceleration, which was also observed in early pre-production GMC Hummer EV Pickups. Additionally, Tesla engineers observed that the front wheels of the electric pickup tended to toe out after encountering potholes, while the rear wheels displayed toe-in behavior during braking. These problems are further exacerbated by throttle input, leading to what Wired describes as “high-head toss acceleration” and “excessive mid-speed abruptness and chop.”

The leaked report critically highlights that resolving these issues is unlikely without a fundamental redesign of the Cybertruck’s suspension system.

Problem with Four-Wheel Steering

Tesla is encountering difficulties with both the steer-by-wire and four-wheel steering systems of the Cybertruck. The leaked report highlighted by Handelsblatt indicates that the steer-by-wire system exhibits a delay of 50 milliseconds following a steering input. This delay significantly exceeds the acceptable limit set by engineers, which is just 5 milliseconds. As for the four-wheel steering system, which was added to the Cybertruck following the introduction of the crab walking feature in the Hummer EV, it also faces challenges. Wired reports that Tesla’s version of the GMC’s “Crab Mode,” known as “Strafe mode,” only offers basic functionality at present.

Cybertruck Construction

Despite Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s earlier dismissal of “exoskeleton” construction in favor of a conventional unibody chassis similar to the Rivian R1T, the company is currently grappling with significant structural problems. According to reports, the hand-built prototypes of the Cybertruck, reminiscent of the initial prototypes witnessed in 2019, exhibit more than a 32% shortfall in stiffness compared to Tesla’s intended targets. This deficiency results in poor torsional rigidity, which is concerning for a pickup truck expected to handle towing, hauling, and off-road exploration. Currently, the only solution available is the addition of extra struts. However, incorporating these struts will increase the curb weight of the Cybertruck, compromising its range, payload capacity, towing capability, and overall performance. Furthermore, this may exacerbate the existing suspension and braking issues.

Similar to the challenges faced with the “Falcon Doors” on the Model X, certain design choices insisted upon by Elon Musk are posing difficulties for Tesla engineers in the case of the Cybertruck. While Musk had previously considered titanium skin but ultimately opted for stainless steel to address manufacturing concerns, the unconventional design of the truck, drawing inspiration from the faceted shape of the F-117 Nighthawk stealth bomber and USS Zumwalt stealth destroyer, is presenting significant headaches. Engineers have identified more than 21 potential sources of noise leaks in the hand-sealed prototype, which could have adverse effects on the truck’s performance in wet weather conditions. Wired reports that engineers have encountered challenges in finding effective solutions for sealing the panel gaps in various areas, stating that there are still unresolved issues in achieving proper sealing.

These documents indicate that the situation is even more dire than previously believed.