Tesla CEO and visionary Elon Musk sat down for a chat with automotive teardown expert Sandy Munro that revealed the best time during the production process to buy a Tesla, and where the future of production is heading.
“Very early cars or once production’s leveled off,” Musk emphasized are the best times to buy a Tesla. “During that production ramp, it’s super hard to be in vertical climb mode and get everything right on the little details.”
Munro has said that the newest 2021 Model 3 he had inspected was “as perfect as anybody could do” despite his own 2021 Model 3 having minor issues. Paint quality and panel gaps, which had been common annoyances in the past, have both been improved a great deal.
Munro found that he would suggest the Model Y (followed by Model 3) out of every electric vehicle on the market, particularly praising the comfort of the seats. The seats were designed to minimize pressure points, with a focus on improvements after early Model S seats were the “most uncomfortable” Musk had ever tested. In fact, Munro believes Tesla now produces the best seats on the planet. Other automakers typically outsource production instead of taking the time and effort to create an in-house bespoke, custom-tailored seat.
Munro found that the Full Self-Driving software he tested is accurate, aggressive, and absolutely impressive overall. The features are significantly ahead of what’s in the consumer and beta releases, identifying potholes and even making left hand turns without issue. Roughly 300,000 lines of code make up the current version, with a goal of lessening it following a philosophy for simplification that Munro shares for parts.
Tesla’s material science team, many of which also contribute at SpaceX, works on each section to find the best material despite the added complexity. Surprisingly applying sealant may be the most challenging aspect at the factory. Single-piece casting eliminates both gaps and sealant, with the body shop reduced by 30% due to a rear-body casting on Model Y — a reduction of 300 robots on the assembly line compared to Model 3. A front-body casting will further eliminate another 300 robots in the near future, after the Texas and Berlin Gigafactories begin production.
With a rear-body and front-body casting a structural pack would be in the center of the vehicle, with the battery cells becoming the structure itself. This is important because cells today have negative structural value, and they have to be isolated from the rest of the vehicle. Bonding the cells would create a multi-functional design, which has been the engineering goal for producing an electric vehicle since the onset of the company.
Munro brought up the merits of carbon fiber, which Musk discussed as being problematic due to materials having to be consistent across various parts of the chassis. Instead Tesla opted to create custom alloys. Tesla took design inspiration for manufacturing from the accurate measurements of Lego, which have to be within a 1/4mm to precisely fit together yet are produced on an affordable scale.
After tearing down Model 3 for the first time Munro came to the conclusion that 2030 will be the crossover point for electric vehicle adoption, with at least 50% of vehicles sold being fully electric or a hybrid. Even competitors such as General Motors are switching their entire lineup to electric in the next five years.
Notably the new Model S/X has a lithium ion 12v battery, with a significantly higher capacity than the outgoing cell technology and a cycle lifespan that matches the vehicle’s main battery.
The interview concluded with a quote from Musk about how “a car that does not have self-driving in the future will be as popular as a horse,” and revealed the artificial intelligence of the car will decide whether to drive a person home if they fall asleep or drive them to a hospital if they’re facing complications. Munro believes that Full Self-Driving will save more lives than seatbelts, airbags, and other safety technology combined.
Effectively build quality improves over time and will continue to improve at a constant pace, making the attention placed on both early VIN’s and newer vehicles most valuable for used Tesla buyers. Most used Tesla’s should have had build issues fixed by the time of sale, and we encourage buyers to inquire about any potential defects.
Link to the interview: https://youtu.be/YAtLTLiqNwg
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