The Tesla cybertruck is not bulletproof; and it's better for it

Bulletproof vehicles are a touchy topic in the world; mostly because they tend to empower the person driving “it” and they represent a serious hazard; Bulletproof vehicles are harder to drive, and in the case of an accident cause way more damage than regular cars. In countries like Brazil and Mexico where bulletproof vehicles are widespread; search and rescue teams need to be specially trained to extract people out of crashed bulletproof vehicles.

Not only would a cybertruck fail any test to deem it bulletproof; but it’d be a worse car if it did. (YES I CALLED IT A CAR BECAUSE IT’S UNIBODY).

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An introduction to armored vehicles

The Justice Department, the German Institute for Standardization, the Underwriter’s laboratories, the Mexican Official Normative, and other institutes rate bulletproof vehicles. Typically, you will find most vehicles sold to the public adhering either to the VR4 or VR7 standards (Colloquially known as Nivel 3 and Nivel 5 here in Mexico). VR4 is the lowest standard considered to resist impacts from firearms.

In order to pass VR4 standards, the vehicle must resist impacts from a .44 magnum or a 9mm submachine gun from a distance of 10m; the impacts must be at most 90mm from each other, at an angle perpendicular to the surface, and there must be no penetration so long as that distance is respected. To achieve this, two armors are used; opaque and transparent.

Transparent armoring to VR4 specification consists of 21 to 30mm thick panes made up of many layers of glass and polycarbonate; with the outer layer being glass, and the inner layer looking into the cockpit being polycarbonate. This is to reduce the probability of shattered glass in the cockpit in case of an attack. Transparent armoring is costly, hard to make, bulky and very heavy... usually the biggest issue in bulletproof cars. which is why bulletproof vehicles usually have reduced visibility:

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The thick frames around the windows reduce weight and make the ballistic seal easier to acomplish

Opaque armoring on the other hand is usually kevlar, ceramics, or some other mixes of fibers. Opaque armoring is very light, cheap and many police departments option in on their vehicles; famously the Ford Police Utility can be optioned with opaque armoring. Police spec SEATs in Europe have the option to spec this armoring as well as a 21mm front windshield.

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Steel is not used on VR4 vehicles, unless it’s a critical area like pillars and window frames.

Why does Elon care?

The biggest hazard for bulletproof vehicles is that the center of mass is raised considerably; as transparent armoring is heaviest and could add anywhere from 200 to 600kg to a VR4 armored vehicle depending on the amount of glass it has.

Teslas are known for having very low centers of mass because of the battery packs; but in the case of the cybertruck; the battery pack is much higher relative to the wheels than how it is in regular Teslas because of the required ground clearance. The cybertruck’s center of mass is very likely above the top of the wheels, and adding the necessary glass to make it truly armored to a VR4 standard while keeping the panoramic window roof would make the truck much harder to drive, and very possibly kick the weight above three metric tons. For typical consumers this is unacceptable.

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Ignoring of course, the opaque section of the armor; which would need to resist multiple impacts from weapons that might not be 9mm pistols. Considering it’s stainless steel; there’s a chance that -from a great distance- a cybertruck would be quasi-armored... but almost like the equivalent of carrying a thick book on your person and expecting it to stop a bullet.

Elon’s blabbing aside, the cybertruck’s great carrying capacity, torque, and the straight edges of the windows make it a great candidate for a bulletproof vehicle; and I will not be surprised to see people who usually buy trucks like the RAM 1500 and the Ford Raptor switching over to a Tesla for their next armored vehicle.

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But it will not resist bullet impacts from the factory.

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