Construction work is continuing quickly at Tesla’s German gigafactory web site simply outdoors Berlin
Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk said at a convention in Germany lately that it will “make sense” to construct a extra compact automotive for European markets. This doubles down on earlier feedback the place he stated Tesla would “not achieve our mission if we do not make vehicles inexpensive”.
Considering the corporate is part-way via developing a brand new manufacturing facility outdoors Berlin, hypothesis has risen that this would be the construct web site for a brand new, smaller Tesla mannequin tailor-made to European tastes.
Initial manufacturing on the Berlin plant will likely be occupied by the Model Y crossover however, contemplating that mannequin at the moment retails for greater than EUR58,000 in Germany, Tesla wants a extra inexpensive mannequin to attract in additional prospects. This new mannequin would try to duplicate the success of Model 3s in-built China the place the corporate lately dropped the beginning value to round CNY250,000, or rather less than EUR32,000 after authorities incentives.
New battery chemistries
One of the primary causes Tesla has been in a position to drop the value of Chinese-made Model 3s is because of switching the battery chemistry of extra inexpensive variations to lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) cells.
One of the primary causes Tesla has been in a position to drop the value of Chinese-made Model 3s is because of switching the battery chemistry of extra inexpensive variations to lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) cells. These items, equipped by native battery big CATL, supply much less power storage potential than the earlier nickel-cobalt-manganese (NMC) chemistry however are cheaper to supply because of reducing out the requirement for cobalt – a expensive metallic that additionally has moral dangers as a result of using youngster labour in sure mines within the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The preliminary plan for Tesla’s Berlin plant included a battery pack manufacturing line however, earlier in 2020, Tesla resubmitted plans with the battery web site omitted. Then, in September, the corporate as soon as once more confirmed that it anticipated to supply batteries on the German facility however that it will want to start out a brand new approval course of with no timeline given but.
Considering a brand new, smaller mannequin for Europe would require much less battery capability than a bigger automobile, Tesla may decide to supply LFP cells in Berlin. As talked about, these cells have much less power storage potential than Tesla’s present NMC variations however price much less to supply – this might enable Tesla to drop the beginning value of its European-made mannequin, making it extra aggressive with new EV challengers such because the Volkswagen ID.3, Peugeot e-208 or Hyundai Kona Electric.
In the US, Tesla is creating a brand new battery manufacturing technique below the umbrella of its ‘Roadrunner challenge’. This is meant to see Tesla develop each stage of the battery manufacturing course of, together with designing equipment, to scale back prices and enhance manufacturing charge. The final objective of the Roadrunner challenge is to supply a so-called ‘million-mile’ battery – a pack that may final the service lifetime of the automobile with no important capability fade even as much as a million miles of driving.
Tesla has but to substantiate which sort of battery cell it is going to be manufacturing in Berlin and, contemplating the primary fashions are anticipated to roll off the road in summer time 2021, it’s doubtless that preliminary manufacturing runs will use imported cells from third-party producers. The cells it is aiming to supply through its Roadrunner challenge will doubtless use a dearer chemistry than the LFP cells its makes use of in China however, in the event that they have been deployed in German-made automobiles, Tesla may nonetheless obtain a decrease buy value if it might probably realise price financial savings from elevated course of effectivity.
Chassis die casting
Another innovation that may take centre stage within the Berlin manufacturing facility will likely be Tesla’s new high-pressure aluminium alloy die casting course of. Using newly developed presses constructed by Italy’s Idra – the biggest of their variety on the earth – and an aluminium alloy particularly optimised for casting, Tesla is ready to produce ‘megacastings’ of the complete entrance or rear half of its chassis.
This course of hurries up manufacturing considerably as a result of many welding levels could be eradicated utilizing only one giant casting. In addition, laborious mounting factors for seats, seatbelts and inner constructions could be constructed into the casting design, reducing out additional welding and adhesion processes.
It has already trialled this course of at its Fremont manufacturing facility to fabricate the rear chassis for the Model Y and can introduce it in Germany for each entrance and rear chassis sections. Tesla’s Berlin manufacturing facility plans embrace provisions for eight such machines to permit it to solid entrance and rear chassis sections together with giant crash constructions. Using megacastings will enable Tesla to simplify and velocity up manufacturing, thus rising economies of scale and enabling it to scale back buy costs, serving to it keep aggressive with rivals that are actually deploying their very own EV methods.
This article first appeared on GlobalData’s analysis platform, the Automotive Intelligence Center