A posting on the Tesla China website contains lots of new information on the giant multi-directional high pressure casting machine the company has installed at the north end of its factory in Fremont, California. It claims the casting machine is already in operation, making a single casting for the rear of the Model Y that replaces 70 individual aluminum stampings used previously. The post, first reported by Twitter user Kevin Yang, claims the casting is 30% lighter than the stamped rear structure it replaces and improves crash safety by 20%.
Tesla China claims 30% weight reduction while improving safety metric by 20% and 100% raw material utilization on rear underbody using single piece casting. https://t.co/2echJWCO9u
— Kelvin Yang (@KelvinYang7) August 24, 2020
Yang says the casting machine uses 100% of the aluminum raw material supplied to it, whereas the wastage ratio from traditional stamping operations can be as high as 50%, according to a translation from our resident Brit living in China, Timothy Dixon, and his more fluent wife.
The scrap from the stamping process can be fed into the casting machine, which is manufactured by the Idra Group in Italy. According to Tesmanian, the machines from Idra are the largest high-pressure die casting machines in the world, with a clamping force of 5,600 to 6,200 tons.
According to Tesla China, the castings will be used first to make Model Ys in Fremont but will be included in the new Model Y production facility in Shanghai. It seems a safe bet they will be featured at Tesla’s two new factories under construction in Germany and Texas.
That posting has a bit of an “In your face!” quality to it. For starters, it states rather boldly that if you thought Tesla’s improvements only come by way of over the air updates, the answer is a resounding “NO!” Not being proficient in Chinese, we are relying on a translation provided by YouTube channel Tesla Daily. With some tweaks for a fairly lumpy translation, the company says in the announcement, “The activation of the one piece casting machine will allow Tesla to build more modern car models but this is not the end point at all. Tesla will never stop on the road to overthrow the traditional automobile manufacturing process.”
There are several questions that come to mind with this news. First, what happens if the casting gets damaged in a collision. Not being structural engineers, we have no idea but castings and stampings are two very different things. In general, castings fracture while stampings bend. If your Model Y gets rear ended, will the car be a write off or can it be repaired? We don’t know the answer to that and Tesla has not offered any information on that subject.
Second, will castings be incorporated into the Model 3 at some point? The Y and the 3 share many basic chassis features but that does not mean those components are interchangeable. We know that Elon Musk thinks the Y will have at least twice as many sales as the 3. Perhaps the company is concentrating its latest technology on the car it thinks will be the biggest seller? The answers to these questions will simply have to wait for now.