Tesla consistently headlines news in the automotive world due to its futuristic advances in technology and design. The Cybertruck is Tesla’s latest vehicle, which is slated for production in 2021. According to the hype, it will be one of the toughest trucks on the road. Not only will the truck be fully electric, as all Tesla vehicles are, but it will also be extremely durable with armor-like components—including the glass. We’re going to take a deep-dive into what, if anything, makes this glass special.
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Tesla boasts that the Cybertruck’s exoskeleton is made from “Ultra-hard 30X cold-rolled stainless steel”. Stainless steel is known for its durability and rust-resistance. It’s typically used as hardware in marine environments where it stands up against the corrosive abuse of saltwater. Steel-body trucks are notorious for having rust spots which form in lower quarter panels, cab corners, and bed wheel wells. The stainless steel used in the construction of the Cybertruck could eliminate these longevity issues faced by traditional steel-body trucks. Additionally, the hardness of the material that will be used on the Cybertruck is designed to resist dents and other damage. Not only should this help to keep the truck looking good, but it may also help to further protect passengers in the event of an accident.
But I digress; we’re here to talk about glass. Tesla must have realized there was no point in making the doors ultra-strong if they didn’t match them with stronger windows. This is a cue that could have been taken from traditional vehicle armoring—the kind used for military vehicles and vehicles for politicians and other public figures who need extra protection when traveling. In this case, many focus on the “bullet-proof” (hint: there’s no such thing as bullet-proof) glass, and forget about the doors. There’s no sense in making one strong while leaving the other weak since they both work in conjunction to strengthen the entire side of the vehicle.
Tesla refers to the glass used in the Cybertruck as Tesla Armored Glass. What does this mean exactly? Well, Tesla’s website defines Tesla Armored Glass as “Ultra-strong glass and polymer-layered composite can absorb and redirect impact force for improved performance and damage tolerance.” It can be inferred from this description that the Cybertruck uses some form of laminated glass.
Laminated glass is created by layering glass with polymer interlayers (typically polyurethane). All windshields for on-road vehicles in the United States must be made using laminated glass. This is because the polyurethane interlayers help keep the glass intact in case of an accident. Some vehicles are also manufactured with laminated side windows because it carries a host of benefits in addition to added strength during an accident. Laminated glass also helps deter break-ins because it is more difficult to penetrate, and the added layers help to deaden sound, making for a quieter ride. Given these benefits, it makes sense that Tesla would design the Cybertruck with laminated glass. From their description, it sounds like there may be other advancements that set it apart from traditional laminated glass. We’re excited to see what these may be as more information becomes available.
If you haven’t heard yet, the Cybertruck’s glass broke during demonstrations done at its reveal. The unexpected outcome spurred a storm of news stories, tweets, and memes. The big question is, why did the glass break? Other footage quickly surfaced which showed the same test being done before the reveal and the glass remaining intact. The Tesla team also performed a live (successful) demonstration on glass which was not mounted on the truck.
The test used a heavy steel ball which was thrown at the window. The ball was supposed to bounce off of the window and leave it damaged, demonstrating the strength of the glass. Instead, the ball smashed the glass upon impact and left large spiderweb cracks outwards from the impact zone. The team then decided to try the demonstration again using the rear window, which they believed would produce a better result. Again, the window broke when the metal ball collided with it.
There are a myriad of theories on why the glass failed. Here are a few of them:
This is a theory based on the fact that the mishap caused a storm of attention to be brought to the Cybertruck. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, even revealed in an interview that he didn’t necessarily view the glass breakage as negative because of the amount of publicity that was generated. However, Musk’s reaction of shock to the glass breaking during the live on-stage demonstration appeared genuine.
A window is practically useless without proper framing. This holds true for all types of glass from automotive to residential and commercial. It is especially true for security glass. The frame must be just as tough as the glass itself and the glass must sit and seat properly within the frame. If the glass is not mounted in the frame properly, the risk of breakage is much higher.
Some suggest that the windows were not rolled up completely. A gap between the top of the glass and the frame could be a plausible explanation as to what caused the glass to break.
The official reason that glass broke, according to Elon Musk’s tweet later on, was that the hammer test, which was performed prior to the glass break test, caused the glass to fail before the metal ball even came into contact with the glass. The glass was already damaged, which caused it to break easily during the glass break test.
The hammer test was to demonstrate the strength of the stainless steel body panels. A large sledgehammer was swung at the door’s body panel and miraculously bounced off without leaving a dent. The energy from the impact needed to disperse somewhere, and it’s possible it fractured the lower portion of the glass which sits inside the door.
It’s likely that no one, except perhaps those in the upper ranks of Tesla, may ever know for certain what caused the glass to break during the test, but we know one thing for sure—we’re anxious for the Cybertruck to roll off the assembly line so that we can see one of these for ourselves and check out the glass!
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