Tesla Is Building Cars In Its...Parking Lot?! Here’s Why!
Tesla, everyone’s favorite electric car maker is having a bit of trouble, specifically in terms of producing its Model 3 sedan cars. Because of the overwhelming demand created for its cars, the company is supposed to be producing a lot of cars, in the range of about 5,000 units weekly, while staying profitable; a goal that CEO Elon Musk said would be achievable at the end of 2017. With Tesla investors starting to ask a lot of questions, the need to produce more cars has gotten even more dire.
So Tesla has done what they have been doing every time they are faced with a problem; they took a little creativity and got flexible. To complement the existing two Model 3 assembly lines in the factory in Fremont, California, Tesla opted to set up a third assembly line.
Here’s the kicker. They’ve done it in a white tent, right on the factory parking lot.
“Needed another general assembly line to reach 5k/week Model 3 production. A new building was impossible, so we built a giant tent in 2 weeks,” Musk tweeted, “They also poured the concrete & built the whole assembly line using scrap we had in warehouses. And it’s way better than the other GA [general assembly] line that cost hundreds of millions!”
At nearly 1,000 feet long, 150 feet wide, and 53 feet tall, the giant tent covers 137,250 square feet. That’s about the size of two and a half Olympic football fields. It has access to four bathrooms and about 30 fire extinguishers.
Tesla states that the tent is where the major pieces of the vehicles come together. The first parts of the process, where the parts are stamped and the core of the car comes together, still happen inside the factory. Once the parts have been to the paint shop, they come here for final assembly.
Instead of the floor-mounted, arm-like robots working in most plants, the tent is filled with gantries. Think of these like a series of gates, through which the car-carrying conveyor belt runs. They’re not robots, but lift assists—devices that make it easy for human workers to move big hunks of metal. They’re mostly used for “cross car” installations, putting together things that run the width of the vehicle, since that’s work more easily done from above than from the side.
Inside the tent, that series of gantries installs various bits: The IP gantry puts in the instrument panels. The glazing gantry does the windshields and rear glass. You can guess what the “door on gantry” and “seat gantry” do. Something called the “marriage gantry” joins the underbody of the car (where you’ll find the battery, suspension, and motors) to the top bit. The “wheel jib crane” presumably puts on the wheels. At the end of the line, the car rolls down a ramp, back to ground level.
“I think it’s kind of clever and ingenious that they’ve come up with a structure they can put up very very quickly,” says Abhay Vadhavkar, the director of manufacturing, engineering, and technology at the Center for Automotive Research, adding that Tesla may be the only automaker that would consider throwing together such a setup in addition to its regular assembly process.
Tesla didn’t comment on how many cars are being produced inside the tent, and whether the process is any different from the assembly line inside the factory. But if this tent is finally able to help Tesla achieve their 5,000 a week target, maybe they should be considering a fourth tent that would potentially help them reach their goal.
Who knows? After its run, the tent could also be used for some epic Tesla celebration party too! What do you think? Leave a comment below!