Elon Musk wants to show Germans how to build cars
While Musk used a term for these machines – “Giga press” – which suggests that Tesla invoked them internally, that’s not the case. The company bought them from Idra Group, an Italian small-capital company that sold them to three customers on three continents and is in talks with other automakers and major suppliers.
The front and rear castings will interface with frames under the Y models which will house batteries integrated into the vehicle structure. That too could be a drastic change – Tesla and other electric vehicle makers have so far housed their batteries in sheet metal and then sealed those coatings to separate the floors.
Musk touted the ramifications of simpler, more integrated battery and body manufacturing at Tesla’s “Battery Day” event last year. He said the company could reduce the investment per gigawatt hour of battery production by 55% and reduce the amount of floor space needed by 35%.
Despite all of the perks Musk described, he also acknowledged that Tesla would play in Gruenheide, a town about an hour’s drive east of the German capital.
“A lot of new technology will be happening in Berlin, which means a significant production risk,” Musk tweeted in October of last year. Tesla’s factories in Shanghai and Fremont, Calif., Will attempt the same transitions in about two years, when the new technology proves its worth, he wrote at the time.
Five months after this post, a “Giga press” in Fremont was involved in a minor fire. The machine melts the aluminum alloy up to 850 degrees Celsius before the metal is moved to a slightly cooler holding furnace. Morgan Stanley’s Jonas wrote in his Oct. 24 report that the manufacturing process is tricky in part because the alloy must enter at a rate that ensures uniform cooling throughout the structure.
German automakers are closely monitoring Tesla’s progress. VW could build a new electric vehicle plant near its sprawling Wolfsburg headquarters in direct response to Musk’s incursion.
Earlier this month, VW CEO Herbert Diess sought to rally his workers to rise to the challenge. He warned that Tesla could successfully manufacture an electric vehicle in just 10 hours, compared to the more than 30 hours VW needs at its Zwickau plant. VW’s new plant would manufacture 250,000 electric vehicles per year and aim to catch up with Tesla in terms of production time.
Morgan Stanley’s Jonas last month increased his forecast for the number of cars Tesla will produce each year by the end of the decade to 2.35 million, citing his expectations that Tesla will produce on average more than 800,000 vehicles. per plant by 2030. This is far more than the 500,000 unit capacity the company is currently claiming for its Fremont plant.
“We have yet to see the ‘moving assembly line moment’ in the electric vehicle industry,” Jonas wrote, referring to Henry Ford’s breakthrough in 1913. “We think the moment is is approaching for this moment. And we believe Tesla is uniquely positioned to push the boundaries at the epicenter of a manufacturing change in automotive manufacturing. “
BMW AG production chief Milan Nedeljkovic told reporters at an event last month that the automaker had not worked with large molding components like Tesla, in part because it would reduce flexibility. which it needs to produce several different types of models on the same assembly lines. Tesla’s new approaches intrigue him, however.
“If it works, maybe it’s something we would consider,” Nedeljkovic said.