AUSTIN, Texas – Tesla has combined a series of innovations to make a technological breakthrough that could transform the way it makes electric vehicles and help Elon Musk achieve his aim of halving production costs, five people familiar with the move said.
The company pioneered the use of huge presses with 6,000 to 9,000 tons of clamping pressure to mold the front and rear structures of its Model Y in a "gigacasting" process that slashed production costs and left rivals scrambling to catch up.
In a bid to extend its lead, Tesla is closing in on an innovation that would allow it to die cast nearly all the complex underbody of an EV in one piece, rather than about 400 parts in a conventional car, the people said.
The know-how is core to Tesla's "unboxed" manufacturing strategy unveiled by CEO Musk in March, a linchpin of his plan to churn out tens of millions of cheaper EVs in the coming decade, and still make a profit, the sources said.
While Tesla has said its unboxed model involves producing large sub-assemblies of a car at the same time and then snapping them together, the size and make-up of the modular blocks is still the subject of speculation.
Terry Woychowski, president of U.S. engineering company Caresoft Global, said if Tesla managed to gigacast most of the underbody of an EV, it would further disrupt the way cars are designed and manufactured.
"It is an enabler on steroids. It has a huge implication for the industry, but it's a very challenging task," said Woychowski, who worked for U.S. automaker GM for more than three decades.
"Castings are very hard to do, especially the bigger and the more complicated."