Hole In Roof Key To Mass Production Of Tesla Model 3?
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, along with the company’s head of vehicle production, Peter Hochholdinger, have made repeated comments regarding Tesla’s ability to produce cars at a rapid rate. In fact, the company intends to make over a half million cars a year, and to eventually trump that of many major legacy automakers. It may all trace back to the design of the Tesla Model 3.
This is due to the way in which Tesla intends to handle production. The Fremont factory is surely capable of making a whole lot of cars, as was proven in the past by GM and Toyota. However, it seems that Tesla is talking about numbers much bigger. How will the company achieve record-setting production?
If Tesla wants to continue to prove itself and remain successful, the company really doesn’t have a choice. About 400,000 reservations for the Model 3 are sitting and waiting. Surveys and information show that there is a myriad of interest out there, probably well beyond the reservation holders. But, one of the biggest consumer concerns is the waiting … the timeline. And, of course there are still skeptics that don’t believe Tesla can pull it off.
The company needs to have all of its ducks in a row at the Gigafactory and with the new Model 3 line in Fremont. Assuring that everything is set to move forward, is not only a monumental task, but also extremely expensive. Nonetheless, Elon Musk and company continue to confirm that everything is on track.
“Building the machine that builds the machine” has been a key concept in how Tesla plans to reach its goals. Musk believes that automakers could be producing at 10 to 100 times more than they are today. He explained (via Gas2):
“The factory itself is considered to be a product. The factory is the machine that builds the machine. It actually deserves more attention from creative and problem solving engineers than the product it makes. What we’re seeing, if we take a creative engineer and apply them to designing the machine that makes the machine, they can make 5 times as much headway per hour, than if they work on the product itself.”
Musk also says that the Gigafactory, and eventually the Fremont factory and others, will work like a giant supercomputer, rather than a traditional manufacturing facility. Currently there are many facets of production that humans can achieve (or access) better than robots. If most of Tesla’s production will be automated, the company must have plans to solve this dilemma. Randy Carlson of Seeking Alpha speculates:
“…One innovation was a very large rear window extending forward to the ‘”B” pillar, eliminating the structural beam above the heads of rear seat passengers. This innovation increases rear seat headroom and at the same time reduces complexity of the design.
The big Model 3 rear window does something else, too. It creates a great big hole in the Model 3 design. A hole very conveniently located to allow robots an unobstructed reach into the Model 3 interior for installing carpets, wiring harnesses, sensors, seats, and the like.“
Removing humans from the assembly line could surely be the answer to substantial production speed increases. Also, as Musk explained, the humans can focus on the machines (robots), rather than building vehicles.
A glass roof option is now available for the Model S, while the Model X already contains an enormous panoramic windshield, and the opening that house the Falcon Wing doors is massive. You can see from the photo (above) that if the windshield and doors were removed, cabin access is substantial. Let’s not forgot that Tesla also now has its own line of glass. Perhaps a signature for all of Tesla’s vehicles will be this type of design, affording the robot easy access.
Hochholdinger, who has had his hands in autos for quite some time, having been in charge of building vehicles for Audi for some 22 years, was thoroughly impressed with Tesla’s production practices. Earlier this year, he shared with the Men’s Journal about Tesla’s forward thinking advantage over other OEMs:
““The cars we build are about seven years beyond everything I’ve seen before, and it’s quite thrilling and exciting to be here and to be part of this car manufacturing group”