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Elon Musk Says Cybertruck Can "Serve Briefly as a Boat"

There's a lot of overlap between the automotive and marine industries. We've covered that extensively.

It makes sense, really. The tech involved in each has a lot of interplay. Engines, transmissions, electronics, and so on. The main difference is that one is meant to float, and the other is meant to drive. But not always.

Elon Musk's inimitable Tesla Cybertruck took the automotive industry by storm way back in 2019. There were a lot of reasons for the hubbub, not among those being its extremely unusual appearance, its electric power, and its abstract design features being influenced by the sometimes eccentric Musk.

But it gets even better. The Cybertruck, for all its foibles (and continual delays reaching the market- industry insiders are now predicting it might see the light of day in mid-2023), it also doubles as a boat. At least for a little while. Musk recently tweeted that the Cybertruck must be capable of crossing the channel between SpaceX's Starbase launch facility in Texas and South Padre Island. The Starbase facility sits on a coastal point not unlike a breakwall, and is designed primarily as a launch site for SpaceX's fleet of 'launch vehicles' (aka- rockets). South Padre Island is roughly 500m (1640 feet) from the edge of the facility at its nearest point.

That's not particularly far, but it's farther than a Honda Civic can make it. Heck, it's farther than some 12-foot tinners can make it if there's 2-foot rollers out there on the high seas. The only other civilian vehicles designed for such excursions were novelties more than functional boats -- like the almighty Amphicar or the Gibbs Aquada -- neither of which earned points for performance (or style points, for that matter).

It's unclear why exactly the Cybertruck would have to float across the channel given Tesla and SpaceX's massive engineering capability. One would think they could build a barge or something similar, but dubbing the Cybertruck as a 'boat' isn't going to hurt interest in the product. It's also going to attract the interest of boaters.

Other electric automakers are starting to make gains against the Cybertruck, most notably the Rivian R1T, which beat the Cybertruck to market after Tesla's constant delays. The R1T is available now, and for those who are turned off by the angular appearance of the Cybertruck, the R1T is more akin to a traditional pickup in appearance (if you ask me, it looks like a futuristic Honda Ridgeline, which is... not a glowing statement for an ultra-modern electric pickup, but still less of an eyesore than the Cybertruck).

But anyway, how is the Cybertruck going to fare as a boat?

Starbase to San Padre Island
Starbase to South Padre Island

Road & Track said it best: "While amphibious cars and trucks are inherently cool, semi-amphibious capabilities in a truck not designed solely for the purpose are a frontier no manufacturer has intentionally crossed. That becomes a concern when combined with the consequences of Tesla's growing tradition of overstating the capabilities of its most promising and unique features. By suggesting the Cybertruck's fording prowess has advanced to the point that it can safely float across small waterways, Musk is inviting a community of buyers already notorious for pushing the limits on technology with an alarming inability to prove that it is being used safely to take their trucks closer and closer to the limit of what constitutes 'briefly' floating. Add in the truck's apparent bulletproof glass windows and you have a new set of challenges if something does go wrong."

The first thing I thought of after reading that statement? Launch ramps. Boaters know what happens at launch ramps. We've all seen our share of pickup trucks and SUV's accidentally turned into submersibles after reversing too far from the shoreline. If a Cybertruck owner knows their boat can float, you can be absolutely certain they will test that theory at the launch ramp. Or beyond.

Either way, you have to admire Musk's willingness to offer the Cybertruck as a quasi-boat. It'll mean the truck is waterproofed underneath, which will bode well for boaters who do have to launch their actual boat at a ramp. No more water getting inside the doorjams. It'll also make for some interesting viral content when Cybertrucks inevitably start wandering away from shore.

Can they make it to South Padre Island? Sounds like they can. Can they cross the Gulf of Mexico and make it to Florida? Someone is going to try.

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