This Is Why Tesla’s Stainless Steel Cybertrucks May Be Rusting

This Is Why Tesla’s Stainless Steel Cybertrucks May Be Rusting

During the Cybertruck’s unveiling in 2019, Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed that the electric vehicle’s “ultra-hard stainless steel” body might be “literally bulletproof.” However, the Tesla truck’s exterior panels appear to be defenseless against water pistols. They apparently rust, as some owners claim.

Posting on the Cybertruck Owners Club forum, a user named Raxar risked the wrath of the Tesla faithful—already exercised by the Cybertruck’s numerous alleged design flaws—by stating that when they collected the $61,000 truck, “the advisor specifically mentioned the Cybertrucks develop orange rust marks in the rain.”

In a separate thread, the user vertigo3pc reported that “corrosion was forming on the metal” of his Cybertruck after it spent 11 days in the rain in Los Angeles.

Raxar, who also lives in California, posted what appeared to be close-up, rust-flecked images of his truck after driving it for two days in rain.

The Cybertruck does not ship with clear coat, that outermost layer of transparent paint that comes as standard on almost every new motor vehicle on the planet. Instead, each Cybertruck owner has the option to purchase a $5,000 urethane-based film to “wrap your Cybertruck in our premium satin clear paint films. Only available through Tesla.”

Photograph: Andrej Sokolow/Getty Images

Who knew untreated stainless steel might not be such a good idea for the exterior of a motor vehicle, especially considering that cars typically get left sitting outside in all weather for 95 percent of their lives? The whole automotive industry, that’s who.

Aside from the 1980s DMC DeLorean and a shiny 1960s Porsche, car companies have long steered clear of stainless steel panels. The material is heavy, relatively expensive, and hard to work with. It’s also stiff, which makes it potentially more lethal to anybody unlucky enough to be struck by a vehicle built with the stuff.

Stainless steel also stains. “Stainless” does not mean “never stains,” just that it stains less than other steels.

Tesla says it uses proprietary stainless steel (possibly from Outokumpu of Finland, Europe’s largest producer, which runs a plant in Calvert, Alabama). However, even proprietary stainless steels can stain, especially if any cheaper steel fittings beneath the Cybertruck’s panels react with the stainless product.

There are five basic families of “stainless steel”: austenitic, ferritic, martensitic, duplex, and precipitation hardened. Some containing chromium among other constituents, such as nickel and molybdenum, are more corrosion-resistant than others, forming an impervious and protective molecular-scale surface barrier of chromium oxide.

Carlton Reid

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