Tesla has reportedly made a technological breakthrough when it comes to the so-called "gigacasting" process that would allow it to die cast nearly all the complex underbody of an electric vehicle in one piece.
According to five people familiar with the plans who spoke with Reuters on condition of anonymity, Tesla has combined a series of innovations to enable one-piece die casting. If the information is accurate, we're talking a major breakthrough as building such a large frame using conventional methods typically requires hundreds of separate components to be assembled.
Needless to say, this could transform the way Tesla builds EVs and contribute decisively to halving production costs, which is a long-time goal of CEO Elon Musk.
The sources said the know-how to achieve that is core to Tesla's "unboxed" manufacturing strategy unveiled by Elon Musk in March, which is key to his plan to build tens of millions of cheaper EVs over the next ten years, and still turn a profit.
Two of the insiders said Tesla's new design and manufacturing techniques could allow the company to develop a car from the ground up in 18-24 months, compared to 3-4 years for most rivals.
A single large frame combining the front and rear sections with the middle underbody where the battery is housed could be used for the first time in Tesla's $25,000 small EV which the company aims to launch by 2025, the five people said.
Gallery: Tesla Giga Texas (Tesla Gigafactory 5)
Three of them said Tesla was expected to make a decision on whether to die cast the platform in one piece this month.
The breakthrough centers on how the giant molds for such a large part are designed and tested for mass production, and how casts can integrate hollow subframes with internal ribs to save weight and enhance crashworthiness.
The innovations, which are being developed by design and casting specialists in the UK, Germany, Japan, and the US, involve 3D printing and industrial sand. More specifically, Tesla turned to companies that build test molds out of industrial sand with 3D printers.
The report goes into great technical detail, but the key thing to know is that Tesla's upcoming small car has given the company a perfect opportunity to cast an EV platform in one piece, mainly because its underbody is simpler.
Tesla's $25,000 car and its robotaxi version don't have big front and rear overhangs, and not much of a hood and rear trunk either.
"It's like a boat in a way, a battery tray with small wings attached to both ends. That would make sense to do in one piece," one of the insiders told Reuters.
Musk's vision from the start was to find a way to cast the underbody in one piece, despite the risks, the sources said, and that's what the company is working on.