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Published on July 21st, 2016 | by Steve Hanley


How Tesla Model X Falcon Wing Doors Work, Explained With LEGO

July 21st, 2016 by  

Originally published on Gas2.

Trevor Page is a Tesla Model 3 reservation holder and founder of the Model 3 club. He is also a skilled videographer. Page has just completed a new video that details exactly how the falcon wing doors on the Model X SUV work. Using a drawing Tesla includes in a manual for first responders to educate them about the unique features of the Model X, Page created a working representation of the system using LEGOs. Apparently his LEGO toolbox includes a lot of unique pieces.


At the heart of the system are two coiled springs per door that operate in torsion mode rather than in compression. The springs are mounted in the magnesium spine that runs down the center of the roof of the Model X. That spine is the reason Tesla could not offer a sunroof in the car and the lack of a sunroof is the reason for the panoramic front windshield that is larger than some countries. The springs actually provide most of the lifting force. Electronic actuators are just there to set the process in motion and close the doors.

On  the Model X, everything relates back to those falcon wing doors. Not only do they allow easy access to the third row seats, which is something Elon Musk dearly wanted, they also are the signature feature the car is known for. On the cool scale, there is nothing like pulling up to the front door of the country club and having everyone ogle you as your falcon wing doors do their carefully choreographed ballet.

The second component of those doors is a separate hinge in the middle that allows the lower portion to articulate as it raises and lowers. Sensors embedded into each door keep them from bumping into cars parked nearby or overhead obstructions. That mechanism involves a pair of hydraulic struts on each side arranged in a push-pull fashion to control how much deflection takes place at the second hinge during operation.

Falcon wing doors are definitely the wow factor that sets the Model X apart from ordinary vehicles. Page has done a superb job of explaining all this in a way even clueless clods like me can understand. The only question he can’t answer is how durable the system will be 2, 5, or 10 years down the road and how much it might cost to fix if something goes awry inside those very swoopy, sexy doors when the car is no longer under warranty.

Please enjoy Trevor Page’s excellent video.

Photo credit: Tesla Motors

Reprinted with permission. 

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About the Author

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island and anywhere else the Singularity may take him. His motto is "Democracy is socialism." You got a problem with that? You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter.

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