Tesla has tapped Finnish company Outokumpu to supply exterior stainless steel panels for the long-awaited Cybertruck, according to sources familiar with the matter. Outokumpu, Europe’s largest producer of stainless steel, has reportedly customized its materials to accommodate the Cybertruck’s unconventional design.
The stainless steel panels will ship from Outokumpu to Tesla’s factory in Austin, Texas where Cybertruck production is slated to begin later this year after repeated delays, Preorders Cross 2 Million. While unconfirmed, Outokumpu’s Alabama plant may provide some of the materials as Tesla diversifies suppliers.
CEO Elon Musk boldly chose a futuristic stainless steel exoskeleton for Cybertruck’s construction back in 2019. But this novel material selection has posed engineering challenges as the heavy metal makes hitting weight and range targets difficult.
In recent months, Tesla’s team has been working to shed pounds from Cybertruck’s design to improve efficiency and maximize driving range. This includes replacing heavy components and reducing use of some parts.
Musk previously touted the stainless steel body as being “bulletproof” and stated the tri-motor Cybertruck would achieve 500 miles of range. However, the heavy stainless chassis has made hitting these goals a struggle. Tesla also had to abandon bulletproof glass that added cost and weight.
Outokumpu’s customized stainless steel alloy likely aims to increase strength and corrosion resistance while optimizing weight. However, the production process requires tight tolerances and expertise to form the complex exterior panels.
Some analysts speculate Tesla may use other materials like high-strength aluminum for the inner structure while keeping exterior stainless components. This could provide an optimal balance of weight, cost, and durability.
Cybertruck’s radical design was always going to stress manufacturability. While Musk envisioned an impenetrable metallic beast, the laws of physics have forced compromises with each delay. But if Tesla succeeds in reaching volume production this year, it will demonstrate the company’s resilience and manufacturing ingenuity.
Of course, reducing cost and weight often requires simplification. It remains to be seen how much Cybertruck’s final specifications will differ from the sci-fi showcase first unveiled. Making the improbable probable is never easy, but Tesla has defied expectations before.
As supply deals firm up, Cybertruck is inching closer to reality. Tesla’s ability to mass produce the world’s first passenger stainless steel vehicle will underscore the company’s continued technology leadership.