Tesla has started production of the Model Y with a massive single-piece rear casting, according to a picture of a new unit of the electric SUV. It’s the automaker’s latest move into massive casting techniques.
Tesla and massive casting
In recent years, Tesla has focused on making bigger casting parts in order to build bigger parts of its vehicles in single pieces to facilitate manufacturing.
We saw the first results of that effort in the rear underbody of the Model Y.
In Model 3, the rear underbody (left) is made of 70 different metal parts, but Tesla managed to change that into just two big parts in the Model Y (right):
Tesla didn’t just release diagrams, but it also shared actual pictures of the giant cast part used in the Model Y versus all the welded parts in the Model 3:
CEO Elon Musk said that Tesla wouldn’t stop there and plans to increasingly use bigger parts in its vehicles, including moving from two to one part for the underbody.
This new strategy is enabled by a new giant casting machine, the biggest in the world, that Tesla acquired, and subsequently ordered many more machines.
In September 2020, we reported on Tesla installing the first casting machine outside Fremont factory.
The machine is so big that it couldn’t be assembled inside the factory, so Tesla seems to have assembled it outside and built a roof over it.
A few weeks later, Tesla China announced that they started operating the machine.
Tesla Model Y with single-piece rear underbody casting
From starting production, we didn’t know how quickly Tesla would be able to use the new part in production Model Y vehicles.
Now we can confirm that the new single-casting rear underbody is in new Model Y vehicles.
The owner of a Model Y produced in late December removed the lining of his trunk for the installation of a third-party accessory and could see the new part:
We can see in the picture that there’s no joint in the middle, and it’s a single piece in which Tesla fits the trunk’s tub.
Tesla plans to produce more large cast parts in the future, and it is adding new giant casting machine at Gigafactory Berlin, Shanghai, and Texas.
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The Tesla Model Y and Casting Cars: The Return of the Alien Dreadnought
Why Model Y manufacturing is breaking new ground.
I bet you wouldn't expect to see a Tesla Model Y at the Museum of Very Large Cast Objects, were that ever to exist. Sure, you'd find that 49-feet tall bronze Buddha there that was cast in 751, and presently sits in Nara, Japan's Great Buddha Hall (where its head fell off during an earthquake in 855). And probably the 20-ft tall Dhammazedi Bell that was cast in 1484 of silver, gold, copper and tin, and now rests on a river bottom with the ship that was stealing it, somewhere near the junction of the Bago and Yangon Rivers in Myanmar. And then there's the biggest casting of them all, a 358-ton steel part for a German forging press, cast in 2015 by Sheffield Forgemasters International in England. It isn't as interesting as the Buddha and the bell, but it's certainly gigantic and seems to have stayed out of trouble. But the Model Y? Why?
By comparison, the biggest castings in the car business have been small potatoes—engine blocks and such. However, there was a golden age of artistry, if not immensity, in automotive casting during the 1920's and '30's. Google engine images of the Alfa-Romeo 8C 2300's or the supercharged Miller 91's Straight 8s, and I guarantee they'll permanently change you.
In the last several years, castings have been finding their way into chassis, a notable one being the current Acura NSX's with its six large aluminum 'nodes' that are home to the suspension's multiple pick-up points. Honda worked with a company called Alotech Inc. to develop its novel manufacturing process, called ablation casting, wherein a sand mold containing the hot, being-cast part, is strategically eroded by high-pressure water jets. By targeting the cooling, the aluminum's mechanical properties are tweaked to match the ductility and energy absorption of the surrounding parts it'll be bonded to, so it's suitable for use in crash zones. Appropriately, they won Casting of the Year Award in 2015 from the American Foundry Society. There's an award for everything.
More recent examples include the even bigger castings hidden in the C8 Chevrolet Corvette, a car that's percentage of them has jumped from 8 percent to 18 percent since the C7 Corvette. Corvette Chief Engineer, Tadge Juechter, calls them 'enormous,' and the rear suspension's pair are real showstoppers, stretching vertically all the way to the tops of the spring-shock units. Unlike the NSX's ablative casting, the Corvette's are formed by high-pressure die casting allowing for very thin and intricate stiffening webs, and at a higher-speed production rate, too. If I owned a C8, I'd consider removing the bodywork and driving it around as a naked chassis. Frankly, its beautifully-webbed castings are prettier than the car.
And now we have the automotive king of casting, thanks to—no surprise—to Elon Musk.
When Sandy Munro—car-disassembler extraordinaire—famously autopsied a Tesla Model 3, he found plenty to like about the car's electronics. And details about its platform that made his eyes wince. It was unnecessarily complicated, heavy, and expensive to manufacture.
This must have been frustrating news for Musk, who originally envisioned its assembly line as an 'Alien Dreadnought', a high-speed, insanely efficient, car-making firehose that would disrupt the industry. The machine that makes the machine, remember? One wonders if the simple, folded-stainless steel fabrication of the Cybertruck was some sort of emotional reflex to both Munro's Model 3 critique and the headaches with the Dreadnought dead-end. But apparently, that dream wasn't dead quite yet.
During the middle of Model 3's production hell, Musk approached his engineers with a Die-Cast toy model car. I don't mean one of the complicated ones (AutoArt's or Tecnomodel's are amazingly detailed—and expensive) but the cheap, simple ones with a die cast bottom and top you screw together.
"Why can't you build a car like this?" he said (or something to that effect). It turns out that there isn't a machine big enough for that, so they contracted to have one constructed, capable of casting about 40-percent of the platform's length. For its production debut in the Model Y, this monstrosity stretches completely across the car's rear, and is comprised of two, bolt-together halves that perch the rear suspensions and drivetrain.
The Tesla team's biggest challenge—learned from Model S and X castings—was that heat-treating such a large part would be impractical due to warpage. So, working with the materials group Tesla shares with SpaceX, the team created an alloy, similar in strength and elongation to heat-treated, 300-series T6 aluminum that doesn't need heat-treating. It's Dreadnought-quick to produce, too—within 10 milliseconds, about 88 pounds of the molten alloy gets injected; two minutes later, the result emerges. This final, two-part unit eliminates 80 parts and about 700 joints.
Why at the rear and not the front? Frontal crash structures take years to develop, making the rear a simpler starting point. (A collapsible structure between the rear bumper and the casting gets sacrificed in a moderate impact; It can be unbolted and replaced afterward). But eventually, the two halves will be replaced by a single, really giant casting that'll include a cast, collapsible crush structure as well.
And maybe someday the whole platform? Like a 100 percent scale, cast Model Y?
That would definitely earn it a prime spot in the Museum of Very Large Cast Objects.
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Tesla offers a number of 1:18 scale diecast models of most of the vehicles, even ones that aren’t yet available like the Tesla Semi.
Another one that will be joining the Tesla Shop in the not too distant future is the Cybertruck. Javier Verdura, Tesla’s Director of Product Design confirmed on Twitter this weekend they are working on a diecast model of the futuristic electric truck.
Unfortunately Verdura did not provide a timeline on when we might see the diecast Cybertruck in the store. Given that CEO Elon Musk has yet to reveal the truck’s final design, it will likely be at least several more months before they start taking orders.
Related: Hot Wheels Tesla Cybertruck coming soon to a store near you
But it should be later this year. Based on information received by Drive Tesla, the automaker is planning the diecast Cybertruck’s release to coincide with the opening of Giga Texas.
Interestingly Tesla hasn’t added the Model Y 1:18 scale diecast model to its lineup even though the real thing has been on the market over one year. You can check out the five current models that sell for $230 CAD ($175 USD) on the Tesla Shop here.
A super EV for your desk
Considered mere toys a couple of decades ago, diecast models have evolved into works of art. Especially the more expensive one, like this $250 Roadster.
This 1:18 scale model is a perfect CAD copy of the real Roadster and measures 9.9-inches long, 4.5-inches wide, and 2.8-inches high
. It’s made from more than 180 metal and plastic parts, and like most high-end replicas, it features opening doors, rear hood, and a removable targa top. It also comes with genuine carpet in the cabin and the trunk, a steering system, and wheels with rubber center locks.
The good news is that it costs $250, just 0.1 percent of the actual Roadster's price tag of $250,000.
Granted, you can’t drive it so you won’t get to experience its insane power and acceleration, but it will for a nice decoration piece in your office.
You can buy other Tesla models too
The Roadster isn’ the only model car you can buy from Tesla. The American producer’s shop also features scale models of existing vehicles, like the Model 3, the Model S, and the Model X. The sedans are available in five colors each, while the SUV is offered in two different finishes.
All come in 1:18 scale and are just as detailed as the Roadster model. Likewise, all are priced at $250.
The Roadster 2.0 also isn’t the only Tesla that’s not yet available in real life that you can buy as a miniature.
Tesla also offers a diecast replica of the upcoming Semi truck.
This one is made in scale 1:24, but it’s just as big given that trucks are much larger than sedans. Also designed using 3D CAD data from the actual truck, this scale model is 11.5 inches long, 4.9 inches wide, and 6.8 inches tall. The quality is similar to the Roadster, while pricing is identical at $250. While this may also be a bit expensive for a model car, it’s quite a bargain given that the Semi truck will start from $150,000.
Source: Tesla Shop
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - [email protected]
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession. Read full bio
Model diecast tesla car y
.Why I Bought a Tesla - Tesla Model Y Review
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