In an early automobile manufacture, Tesla began building Model Y bodies with two giant single castings for the front and rear of the electric SUV.
Tesla is preparing to start production of the Model Y at two new factories, Gigafactory Berlin and Gigafactory Texas.
CEO Elon Musk presented the new Model Y that will be built at these factories as “a revolution in body engineering”.
He was referring to Tesla using mega-casting parts to have unique body parts for the rear and front of the electric SUV.
Over the past few years, the automaker has invested heavily in casting and alloying technology to enable larger castings that have the ability to dramatically simplify manufacturing.
The company has even acquired several units of the largest casting machines in the world.
Tesla previously produced the Model Y with a single rear body part which replaced 70 different parts in the vehicle.
Earlier this year, a photo of the Model Y’s first unique front cast part produced at Gigafactory Texas was leaked.
It appears that a few months later Tesla confirmed that it is now producing the Model Y body with both parts.
In a photo published in its second quarter 2021 financial results, the Model Y body production line shows new bodies in the works:
This apparently went unnoticed, but a former Tesla employee familiar with the Model Y’s body was able to confirm from the photo that these bodies feature both front and rear castings in one piece and contacted Electrek.
This is a first in automotive manufacturing, and if successful, it could be a game-changer.
A source familiar with Tesla body engineering listed some of the many benefits of such a design:
You save on new factory space, CAPEX (eliminate hundreds of welding robots and stamping machines), better NVH, lighter and increased range, simplify manufacturing by reducing the number of stamping and stamping machines. welding, savings through the elimination of welding and stamping tooling / maintenance costs, vertical integration, better supply chain control and many other benefits.
Tesla wanted to go one step further and joined these two parties with a structural battery powered by its new 4680 battery cells unveiled last year.
However, the automaker recently indicated that the integration of the new cells and the structural battery pack may not be introduced with the start of production of the Model Y at the new factories.
Tesla guided the start of production at Gigfafactory Texas and Berlin by the end of the year.
It is an impressive achievement.
Critics of Tesla are quick to say that any other automaker can do it and they just don’t because of the maintenance implications.
It is true that there are implications for body repairs when using castings of such a large size and it remains to be seen what the cost of repairs would look like, but I am not sure that a other automaker could achieve this.
Casting large parts is difficult and we believe Tesla not only ordered the world’s largest casting machines to achieve this, but they also developed a custom alloy with the Tesla-SpaceX joint materials team to make possible such castings.
I think the Tesla-SpaceX materials science team shouldn’t be underestimated.
We expect Tesla to release more details on Model Y body production at the Gigafactory Austin on Thursday when Tesla holds its shareholders’ meeting at the new plant.
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