I will never forget the Tesla event of 2019. When Tesla Chief Designer Franz von Holzhausen very passionately hurled a metal ball at the Cybertruck’s driver’s door glass. Beating the Cybertruck’s stainless steel exoskeleton with a sledgehammer wasn’t enough violence for him for one day.
And why would it be? Claiming that your glass is strong enough to sustain a few hits is only an invitation. And then, to everyone’s surprise, the windows did smash. To this day, anyone who witnessed the event still remembers the iconic circular imprints on the broken glass.
But was this an accurate representation of the Cybertruck’s durability? Is the Cybertruck tough enough to be bulletproof? Here’s what we know so far:
Tesla’s new patents
The original strike from Franz's sledgehammer, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, had broken the base of the glass. The glass was already too weak to take any more blows. Elon later released a video of Franz hurling the identical balls at the windows before the Cybertruck ever arrived on stage. Tesla spent a lot of time and work designing glass for the Cybertruck that could survive common road dangers and still function properly.
Last year, Tesla issued many additional patents relating to the Cybertruck, one of which was the "bulletproof" armored glass that CEO Elon Musk has mentioned on multiple occasions. Musk says that the laminated shield will be able to stop a 9mm round. One of the most note-worthy aspects of the Cybertruck has always been its endurance.
According to the patent, car glass is frequently chipped, fractured, or shattered without much external effort; anything as tiny as a pebble propelled into the air by another vehicle can cause enough damage to necessitate a full windshield replacement.
Tesla sought to avoid this since windshields are costly and difficult to repair. The patent explains the multi-layered architecture that Tesla plans on using across many of its vehicles. This “multi-layer glass stack” combination has been said to have a 10% probability of failure when hit with an impact strength of 2 J.
What is the glass made of?
Tesla’s multi-layer glass stack is comprised of an inner, and inter and outer layer:
- The Inner-facing layer measures from 0.5 to up to 1.1 millimeters in thickness. The layer is chemically reinforced to have high strength and flexibility.
- The Inter layer acts as an energy absorbent adhesive, joining the inner to the outer layer.
- The Outer layer is the most crucial since it has the ability to absorb a truckload of force. This layer is comprised of borosilicate, a low-melting-point glass consisting of silica and boric oxide that has more thermal shock tolerance than any other glass on the market. The thickness of the glass ranges from 2 to 5 millimeters. This is a high densification glass layer. And because it is non-soda lime, it has a low coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE).
The layered structure of the glass is what makes it so robust. Bullet-resistant displays, which work on the same principle, are also used in banks. You just need to keep adding layers until you get the required amount of protection. But Tesla remembers to go above and beyond by utilizing high-quality materials in their glass to ensure their customer’s safety.
And the Cybertruck does not appear to be the only vehicle that uses this glass technology. Another image in the patent depicts a Sedan, implying that future Tesla EVs will be bullet-proof as well. The patent also gives information on various Outer layer implementations. This glass may be strong enough to withstand crack propagation as well as crack initiation.
But what about this EV’s frame?
Okay, we get it, the Cybertruck’s glass is really cool. But the EV isn’t entirely made out of glass. The rest of the Cybertruck needs to match the solidity of the glass. And to no one’s surprise, it does.
Tesla is serious about making this electric vehicle an electric tank. The Cybertruck’s exterior will be made of the Type-301 stainless steel that its sister company SpaceX is using for its Starship. Now, Tesla has not mentioned a clear armor rating. But if sources are true, the Cybertruck will be thick enough that it’ll be impervious to 9mm rounds.
Iain Harrison, former British Army captain and editor-in-chief of Recoil says that 3mm of Type-301 steel is more than enough to stop any 9mm Luger round. You’re only getting through this metal with special armor-piercing bullets, and you can’t simply buy those off of a shelf at any gun store.
Because of the thick stainless steel covering, each door panel will weigh around 60 pounds, according to Tesla. The automaker was even considering raising the thickness to 4mm. This would’ve added a whopping 80 pounds to each door, etching slowly into Armoured personnel carrier territory. Maybe the day we get a CyberAPV isn’t too far.
A quick look at various civilian and military armor rating references shows that a 3mm-thick sheet of 301 stainless steel could successfully deflect a 9mm Luger round. This still isn’t enough to get certified, which would require rigorous testing to see if the Cybertruck can meet the requirements. These tests include multiple impacts from a specific range at a designated impact angle, yeah, remember the metal sphere incident?
What does Armormax have to say?
Armormax has been producing armored vehicles for the past twenty five years. The CEO of Armormax, Mark Burton, has spoken about if a 3mm stainless steel sheet can realistically act as ballistic armor. Armormax tests a range of materials to use in armor plating.
Stainless steel has been put to the test too, and Armormax’s hesitance to use it makes things obvious. Burton stated that Stainless steel is an air-hardened heat-treated metal and that certification requires 1/8 of an inch of air-hardened steel. This is why Stainless steel isn’t the most effective material for ballistics, which is why Armormax does not use it.
So what do they use?
Armormax has its proprietary Armormax synthetic fiber laminate, which may be five to seven times lighter than steel. And it still manages to provide the same level of ballistic protection.
We shouldn’t lose hope, while stainless steel may not be the company’s first choice for armor, that doesn’t make it completely useless and ineffective. The thick stainless steel bodywork of the Cybertruck may have additional advantages. However, unless certified, the ballistic resistance of the Cybertruck's body panels and windshield is a great bonus but should not be depended on in situations that need a genuine armored vehicle.
The Cybertruck may be able to take a bullet or two, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we recommend you charge headfirst into battle after getting your EV. The bulletproof label should only serve as a testament to the Cybertruck’s reliability, and Tesla’s focus on keeping its passengers safe and secure. In a similar token, the Cyberbackpack is committed to keeping your gear and belongings secure and safe.
CEO Elon Musk made an appearance on Jay Leno’s Garage some time ago. He joined Jay on a ride for a ride on the Cybertruck. When Leno confronted Elon about why would he want to make a bulletproof truck with fortified glass, Musk’s reply sums up why anyone should consider getting the Cybertruck: