Tesla is in a pinch. It’s purported to be producing numerous vehicles. Mannequin Three sedans, particularly. At the least 5,000 per week, and, ideally, getting cash whereas doing it. However practically a yr after beginning manufacturing of the automotive, it has but to satisfy that aim, which CEO Elon Musk initially stated Tesla would hit earlier than the top of 2017. Now, the second quarter of 2018 is winding down and buyers are asking questions: The necessity to crank out extra vehicles has gotten much more dire.
So previously month, Tesla did what it has at all times accomplished, whether or not in a pinch or not—it acquired versatile. To enhance the 2 Mannequin Three meeting traces already working inside his at-capacity manufacturing facility in Fremont, California, Musk arrange a 3rd line. In a giant white tent. Within the manufacturing facility car parking zone.
“Needed another general assembly line to reach 5k/week Model 3 production. A new building was impossible, so we built a giant tent in 2 weeks,” he Tweeted final weekend. “They also poured the concrete & built the whole assembly line using scrap we had in warehouses. And it’s way better than the other GA [general assembly] line that cost hundreds of millions!”
Musk didn’t say what number of vehicles are being constructed within the tent, how that work differs from the meeting contained in the manufacturing facility, or what makes this setup any higher. However an inspection of the constructing permits Tesla filed with the Metropolis of Fremont yields a greater image of what’s happening in there.
First off, “giant” is a good descriptor. Almost 1,000 ft lengthy, 150 ft broad, and 53 ft tall, the tent covers 137,250 sq. ft. That’s sufficient to suit two and a half soccer fields, 122 Mannequin Three sedans, or, an meeting line. Possibly even two, says Abhay Vadhavkar, who spent the primary few many years of his profession in manufacturing at Ford and GM, and is now the director of producing, engineering, and know-how on the Heart for Automotive Analysis. The tent sits on the northeastern little bit of the Fremont property, by the paint store. It has entry to 4 loos and about 30 hearth extinguishers. It’s the third such construction Tesla ordered from San Francisco-based Sprung Constructions, and its official identify is Sprung 3.
Although the massive tent is assessed underneath California’s constructing code as a “repair garage,” Tesla says it’s most positively an meeting line, the place the foremost items of the autos come collectively. The primary elements of the method, the place the elements are stamped and the core of the automotive comes collectively, nonetheless occur contained in the manufacturing facility. As soon as the elements have been to the paint store, they arrive right here for last meeting.
As an alternative of the floor-mounted, arm-like robots working in most crops, the tent is crammed with gantries. Consider these like a collection of gates, via which the car-carrying conveyor belt runs. They’re not robots, however carry assists—gadgets that make it straightforward for human staff to maneuver massive hunks of steel. They’re principally used for “cross car” installations, placing collectively issues that run the width of the automobile, since that’s work extra simply accomplished from above than from the aspect.
Contained in the tent, that collection of gantries installs numerous bits: The IP gantry places within the instrument panels. The glazing gantry does the windshields and rear glass. You’ll be able to guess what the “door on gantry” and “seat gantry” do. One thing known as the “marriage gantry” joins the underbody of the automotive (the place you’ll discover the battery, suspension, and motors) to the highest bit. The “wheel jib crane” presumably places on the wheels. On the finish of the road, the automotive rolls down a ramp, again to floor stage.
Tesla stands out as the solely automaker that will take into account throwing collectively such a setup in so little time (a Metropolis official says Tesla notified it of the venture in late Might, filed its permits on June 11, and was up and working a couple of week after that). However bonus meeting traces are a longtime, if unusual, means for automotive makers to do one in all two issues: make fixes to autos which have gone via the common meeting course of, or construct autos that include particular options, that are arduous to combine into an present line.
It’s true that Tesla has had high quality management points, however a spokesperson says Elon didn’t pitch the tent to repair up vehicles. So the second use case makes extra sense, provided that a minimum of one automotive that rolled off the brand new line was the primary Mannequin Three with a twin motor setup. The second motor permits all-wheel drive, drops the automotive’s 0-60 mph time to 4.5 seconds, and bumps its value up $5,000. It complicates an meeting line, nevertheless, to have some vehicles get two motors, and others get one, which is why Tesla didn’t let prospects order that choice till a month in the past. Nearly when it will have began work on the tent. A Tesla rep says the road may also construct vehicles with the only motor setup.
“I think it’s kind of clever and ingenious that they’ve come up with a structure they can put up very very quickly,” says Vadhavkar. And if that is the transfer that lastly places Tesla throughout that near-mythical 5,000-car-per-week mark, perhaps Musk ought to take into account organising Sprung 4—and utilizing it for a whopping massive occasion.