The Tesla Cybertruck broke every rule of automotive design, ignoring the conventional streamlined aesthetic that assured maximum MPGs. The Cybertruck may be ugly, really ugly, but it signals a new era is upon us. This could be fun!
In a previous blog, I explained how virtuous causes for safety, practicality, and fuel efficiency have ruined all the fun in automotive design. Because automakers play by the same rules, all cars begin to look the same. Yes, we’re all better because of it, but it’s really not that fun.
Let’s call these three restraints the “iron triangle of automotive design.” What are the consequences of ignoring one of these restraints?
You can make impractical cars as long as they are safe and reasonably fuel efficient, but you end up selling a low volume of cars. This strategy works for people who make exotic sports cars or niche cars. (e.g. Ferrari, Lamborghini)
You cannot make unsafe cars, at least not anymore. Since the 1970s, the government has gotten more serious about safety. Even when car buyers care more about everything else, the government has played a central role in keeping us alive. Carmakers care too. There are cautionary tales about unsafe cars and how they destroy the reputation of a carmaker. (e.g. Ford Pinto, Yugo)
You can make a car that is a fuel-inefficient car as long as it’s safe and practical, but the government will punish you with the gas-guzzler tax, which in turn makes the car too expensive for buyers. Especially practical buyers. The government is serious about miles per gallon.
MPGs? What if we aren’t dealing with gallons anymore?
It’s the year 2021, and it seems we’re in a rare window of time where battery-powered cars can basically do whatever they want. Consumers are concerned about range (give me 500 miles between recharge), but I haven’t heard of a government agency placing demands on EVs akin to Miles Per Gallon for internal combustion engines. This isn’t even a topic anyone is discussing. We don’t yet have words to describe our expectation of battery efficiency.
Result? Designers of electric vehicles aren’t obligated to round off every corner to reduce drag. Designers can carve vehicles with audacity and confidence. Let’s take look at two EV startups: Canoo and Alpha Motors.
Canoo Designs with Audacity
The Canoo pickup is everything the Cybertruck is not: charming, approachable, and human. Every detail within the cab, the bed, and the hidden compartments seems like a dream to dudes like me who like to build stuff. (Did you know I have a YouTube Channel called DIY Gangsters?) Watch the video…
The utility gets more fun the longer you explore this truck. There is crazy cabin room for passengers. You can store and lock your precious laptop and electronic devices in a front compartment, complete with charging. They have an epic adventure package that includes a camper with a pop-top tent. (Don’t be the last to know… overland is cool!)
It gets better. It’s been 3 years since VW aired their famous Superbowl commercial announcing the coming of the 2020 VW bus. Now they’re saying 2023? 🙅♂️ Forget you VW!
Canoo plans to use this same platform to build our first electric hippy bus before Volkswagen. Check it out.
Alpha Motors Designs with Confidence
What can I say? The people at California-based Alpha Motors are INTENSE. Let’s go through the list. They’ve designed a small pickup inspired by the 1980s. They’ve designed a sweeeet spots car called Ace with a nod to early Datsun.
Then they’ve designed a CUV that snubs the idea of trying to look like a cool SUV. Instead, they’ve created the Jax, which is basically a lifted sedan.
When other carmakers are checking their likes to see if they are cool or not. Alpha? They don’t care.
I don’t know a lot about Alpha Motors. They are a mysterious company, run by talented, charming fellows. They seem to enjoy redefining cool, and I’m cool with that. I just hope they have enough capital to actually make these things come to life.
Can we be excited, for now?
I know, I know. People who love cars will remind me that all concept cars are wild and cool, and all that gets deleted just in time for production. You could also argue that eventually, consumers will demand every efficiency out of their electric vehicles, and the aerodynamic cars will have a competitive advantage. So this upswing in radical design will be temporary.
But given the shocking success of the Cybertruck with an estimated 1,250,000 pre-orders, anything feels possible. This could be fun.◻️