In their latest podcast, Third Row Tesla talked with Elon Musk and Sandy Munro about some of the innovations Tesla brought to bear in optimizing the design of the Tesla Model 3. The new episode was released to Third Row Tesla’s Patreon supporters this morning and will be released on your favorite media channel shortly (Website | Twitter | YouTube | Stitcher | Spotify).
To start things off, they dove into the new Octovalve in the Tesla Model Y that upgrades the heat pump in the Model Y to enable the larger, heavier vehicle to achieve a range that’s comparable to the Model 3. The improvements in the new heat pump in the Tesla Model Y translates to a staggering 10% improvement in efficiency.
The cooling circuit was integrated into a single heating and cooling management system for the vehicle that optimizes the thermal energy flowing throughout the vehicle. Tesla redesigned the heating and cooling systems for the Model Y to tap into the inefficiencies of heating and cooling with electricity to maximize the efficiency of the vehicle’s thermal systems.
The result of Tesla’s efforts was a new valve system called the Octovalve that is paired with a completely redesigned heat pump. The heat pump is also the standard heart of many home heating and cooling systems, leading to speculation that Tesla will eventually move into the home heat pump market as well.
“The thing that’s interesting about this heat pump is that it has a local heating loop,” Musk said. “The solution the Tesla HVAC team came up with was to have a local heating loop. So the thing will basically just spin itself up and get hot locally before opening another valve that then tries to heat the cabin.”
Small design changes like this, when stacked onto one another, translate to not just a more efficient system, but better performance in a wider range of temperatures as well. “The local heat loop is very important for low temperatures,” Musk said.
Tesla also brought its mastery of digitization of manual process through electronics to bear. “Applying the concepts of a printed circuit board (PCB) to cooling circuits allows you to achieve a very complex heat exchanger that you literally could not do with tubes,” Musk said. Digitizing controls of the system allowed Tesla to optimize the system in realtime, across the multitude of thermal systems in the vehicle, and the results speak for themselves.
The integration of the thermal systems in the vehicle into a single functional system resulted in a 10% increase in range of the vehicle. Elon said that the improvements in the heating system tech in the Model Y result in a range that is comparable to the more aerodynamic, lighter Tesla Model 3.
That’s staggering and speaks to not only Tesla’s mastery of battery technology, but mastery of innovation. This is not an electric vehicle improvement, a motor improvement, or a new battery chemistry. Rather, it showcases Tesla’s willingness to tackle and become the masters of a completely new competency to improve its vehicles. That is a massive competitive advantage for Tesla that we have seen play out time and time again over the years and leaves the competition constantly chasing Tesla’s innovations.
In the Tesla Model Y, the heat pump was a true engineering marvel. Elon admitted on the podcast that he has a trophy rack of impressive tech his teams have come up with in his bedroom at home. The new printed circuit board (PCB) for the Tesla Octovalve was so impressive to Elon that he added it to his bedroom trophy rack.
The showcasing of the new PCB is reminiscent of what we saw when we visited Tesla’s Fremont factory last year. When interviewing Tesla’s President of Automotive, Jerome Guillen, he made a point of turning around a framed version of the latest Full Self Driving computer. It had been framed up like a work of art — and, indeed, it is a beautiful piece of technology.
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