Tesla’s making their new Cybertruck out
of stainless steel, another bold move from a company that likes to rip up the rulebooks. But is it actually a good idea? Why has only one other stainless steel car
been mass produced, and that ended in bankruptcy? Will it be different for Tesla, or is the
new Cybertruck a big white elephant? (music) Stainless steel was invented by accident. An English metallurgist, Harry Brearly, was
trying to improve rifle barrels just before the first world war. He found that adding chromium to steel inhibited
its natural tendency to rust. This is because of a chromium-rich oxide coating
that seals the metal from the elements. But it wasn’t until the 1930s until people
thought of using stainless steel on cars. The Allegheny Ludlum Steel company approached
Ford Motor company with the idea of creating a vehicle to help them sell more stainless
steel. Ford obliged and produced 6 unpainted Ford
Model 68 Deluxes. Allegheny Ludlum loaned them out each year
to their top salesmen. The cars were on the road for ten years and
each logged over 200,000 miles. The shiny bodies are still in excellent condition
and have held up better than the rusting steel chassis! But here’s the first reason as to why we
don’t see more stainless steel cars on the road. A retired Allegheny Ludlum employee revealed
that when the cars were originally produced the dies were ruined by stamping out the stainless
steel parts from the harder material. So, to produce cars from stainless steel,
car makers must spend additional money making dies that could withstand stamping out stainless
steel parts day in, day out. The Tesla Cybertruck uses cold-rolled stainless
steel, and that’s even harder than regular stainless steel, and this makes the problem
even worse. Ford agreed to another collaboration with
Allegheny Ludlum in 1960 to produce two Ford Thunderbirds. The original 1936 cars had been very shiny,
but with the update they went for a brushed finish, and I’m sure other motorists thanked
them for it! After the issue with dies with the 1936 car,
Ford waited until the end of the car’s production run before damaging the dies producing the
stainless steel cars! Again, Allegheny Ludlum used it to help publicise
stainless steel and they toured the USA drumming up business. The new cars used stainless steel exhausts
and mufflers, and they must be the only 1960s cars still around today with their original
exhausts! Ford and Allegheny Ludlum collaborated one
last time with three stainless steel 1967 Lincoln Continental convertibles. If you want to see all three in their glory,
you can find them at the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland, OH. By the 1950s mainstream car manufacturers
were dabbling with stainless steel, making small car parts such as hubcaps. GM went one step further in 1958 with the
Cadillac Eldorado Brougham which featured a stainless steel roof. They did the same to the 1979 Cadillac Eldorado
Biarritz. Maserati’s 1971 Bora also featured a stainless
steel roof along with stainless steel windscreen pillars. But each part was a simple shape, to make
production easier. It would take a maverick car company executive
to build a whole car from stainless steel. And that person was John DeLorean, a young
high-flying GM vice president who one day quit his job to start his own car company. He decided his first car, the DMC DeLorean
would be brushed stainless steel, and the DeLorean Motor Company was probably the only
car company without a paint shop! Only three cars sold to customers would be
anything other than plain brushed stainless steel, and those were plated with 24-carat
gold! Yes, a company mad enough to put gull wing
doors on a car decided it would be a good idea to make a car that was covered entirely
in real gold! The car’s finish looked a little rough up
close, but it had the advantage that small scratches could be taken out with a non-metallic
scouring pad. Never worry about getting your car “keyed”
ever again! However, some customers didn’t like the
unfinished stainless steel look, so took their cars to a paint shop to get the colour they
wanted. But stainless steel had several disadvantages
that have kept it from wider adoption: • It doesn’t rust
It seems silly to put this as a disadvantage, but to car companies who’ve built their
entire business around selling you a new car every five years or so, having a car that
doesn’t decay isn’t that great. There are also Government incentives that
encourage customers back to car dealers every few years. With tight profit margins, many car companies
rely on things like leasing agreements to stay in business and changing that may cause
the business unforeseen financial problems. • It’s expensive
Stainless steel is more expensive than regular steel, and when margins are so tight, why
add extra cost to the vehicle? • It’s hard
As we talked about before, stainless steel is a harder metal, which makes it harder to
form into the final shape for the car. It’s also more difficult to weld. • It’s harder to repair
With a steel car if there’s a dent you can use filler and paint to hide the problem. With stainless steel, especially unpainted
stainless steel, the only option is to try to restore it to its original shape, which
is hard enough with regular steel, but harder with tougher stainless steel. Most stainless steel cars produced weren’t
painted at all, because they didn’t need to be. But to many people, choosing the colour of
their car is a big part of the process. There’s a good reason why Ford’s come
in more than black these days! And if you’re going to paint the car, then
the car looks no more different from normal car bodies that were becoming much more rust
resistant by the late 1970s. Car companies did this by first getting better
at rust proofing. Then they started galvanising the metal, and
companies like Audi started making their bodies from aluminium that doesn’t rust anyway,
and it’s softer than steel so easier to form. Aluminium welding is trickier, but over time
they’ve found ways to master it. So, this brings us to Tesla’s Cybertruck. They’ve opted to go for an even harder form
of stainless steel – a grade they’ll use on the SpaceX Starship – so let’s see
how those same disadvantages stack up. • The five year car buying cycle
Tesla isn’t as affected by making a car that will last more than five years before
needing to be replaced. As I mentioned before, steel car bodies don’t
rust like they used to, and the other components of a Tesla look like they’ll last ten years
or more. Tesla’s a company in expansion, so it’s
less reliant on repeat business than its customers. • Stainless steel is expensive
This will still impact Tesla, but they’ll use less metal as the stainless steel body
will be used as a stressed member to make the car more rigid. And with a starting price of $40,000, it seems
the added cost of stainless steel isn’t going to impact the final car price very much. • It’s hard
There’s a good reason the Cybertruck is all angles. Instead of bending the metal, it’s simply
cut out and welded together. Tesla and SpaceX are learning to weld this
material on an industrial scale, and like Audi with aluminium they believe that they
can solve the problem. • Repair
This one may be harder to solve. But Tesla’s claiming the Cybertruck can
withstand some major impacts, so maybe fender benders just won’t be a big issue. But larger repairs could be a major expense,
and repair shops will need to learn a whole new set of skills. But that very strength could be an issue when
the car’s released. Elon stated in the Cybertruck reveal that
the body “is literally bulletproof to a nine millimetre handgun”. The “transparent aluminium” windows, while
breaking during the presentation, have been shown to shatter, but not allow bullets through. With a fast 0-60 time and a bulletproof exterior,
will the Cybertruck become the go to vehicle for the criminal underworld? A big thank you to all my Patrons for supporting
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