During summer factory upgrade, Tesla installed 10 of the largest robots in the world

To prepare for Model X production, Tesla this past July halted production at its Fremont facility for two weeks in order to upgrade its assembly lines, modernize its production floor, and of course, ultimately increase overall production.

“This represents the single biggest investment in the plant since we really started operations and enables us for higher volumes,” Tesla spokesman Simon Sproule told Bloomberg earlier this summer. Indeed, the total cost of the enhancements reportedly checked in at a cool $100 million.

Earlier this week, Tesla put up  blog post detailing all of the nitty gritty details regarding its somewhat recent factory upgrade.

During the pause in production, we upgraded the assembly line, added capacity to the body shop, enhanced powertrain assembly, and revamped facilities for our employees. The result of this retooling phase, which complemented ongoing upgrade work, is a much-expanded operation that allows us to produce more cars, faster, while increasing automation and providing a more inviting work environment.

In the powertrain department, we’ve added conveyors and advanced robots that have given us the capacity to process 1 million battery cells per day, up from 800,000. In body-in-white, we’ve added new welding equipment and improved our production uptime by 5 to 10 percent, thanks in part to a 13-car buffer that guards against bottlenecks. We’ve also added 24 new tire and export docks to the perimeter of the main building, increasing the speed with which we can deliver cars overseas.

Of particular interest is Tesla’s investment in advanced robots, some of which, the blog post notes, will soon be able to install battery packs on cars. Interestingly, Tesla notes that over the summer, it installed 10 of the largest robots in the world.

What’s more, Tesla has taken to affectionately naming its new in-house robots after X-Men characters.

Rather than refer to these robots by technical descriptions, we named them after X-Men characters. Xavier stands at the entrance to the trim line, lifting cars down to the floor from an electrified rail, while Iceman, Wolverine, and Beast do more heavy lifting nearby. Storm and Colossus can be found at the end of the chassis line, and Vulcan and Havok work as a team to lift cars back onto the rail. To us, these robots are like superheroes, so we figured they deserved superhero names.

Having seen what some of Tesla’s beloved robots can do on various YouTube videos, it’s hard to disagree with that. Interestingly, Musk noted during Tesla’s most recent earnings conference call that it’s often “way harder to make the machine that makes the machine than it is to make the machine in the first place.”

The entire post is well worth a read and is chock full of interesting information (and videos!) about Tesla’s recent factory upgrade.

 

Elon Musk takes to Twitter to end the “debate”: Model X will have Falcon Wing doors

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The Model X is coming. No, really, it is. Despite some delays, Tesla earlier this week sent out an email reassuring reservation holders that the hotly anticipated Model X will begin shipping to customers with pre-orders sometime during the third quarter of 2015.

Of course, anytime a highly anticipated product — whether it be a smartphone or a car — is subject to delays, the rumor mill starts churning, often times taking us down a path completely soaked with idle speculation.

Such was the case with the Model X earlier this week when an analyst from none other than Morgan Stanley issued a note to investors articulating that engineering difficulties with the Model Xs’ Falcon Wing doors are likely behind the vehicle’s delay. Naturally, some folks took the report and ran with it, leading some to start wondering, “Is there any chance the Model X won’t come with Falcon Wing doors?”

In a word, “No.”

But don’t take my word for it. In an effort to nip such rumors in the bud, Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter early on Wednesday to dispel any notion that the Model X would be doing away with its, dare I say, iconic doors.

Well that settles that. And now we can all go back to impatiently waiting for the Model X to hit the streets.

Ford CEO says “We’re making a ‘Tesla’ for the masses”, talks driverless cars

Do 85kWh hour Tesla Model S batteries supercharge 50% faster than a 60?

The video above would appear to verify that and the speed can obviously increase with more quantity of batteries to charge but I can also say that I’ve charged at over 300KW/h for a long time in my 60 where this seems to fall off of 300KW pretty quick.

One would think that there would be a 85/60 or 42% speed increase solely from a hardware standpoint.

The backstory behind the selection of Tesla’s Gigafactory site

Long read from Fortune about the selection of the Reno Nevada site. Long story short: Nevada’s package and the quick work and willingness of a brothel-owning politician and businessman sealed the deal.

Still, the victory came at an eye-popping price, generating criticism in the press. Nevada is paying more than $200,000 for each of the 6,500 direct jobs the gigafactory is supposed to create. “I read Nevada’s incentive package,” says former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who negotiated with Tesla for its first assembly plant. “They literally handed over Reno and Las Vegas, lock, stock, and barrel.” Richardson is quick to add, in a rueful comment that captures the bind that states find themselves in, “I probably would’ve done the same thing as Governor Sandoval. It’s a lot of jobs in a recessionary period. You create a new kind of economy in your state.”

For his part, Musk noted that Nevada hadn’t even offered the biggest package (San Antonio would claim that title). Low costs and high speed had carried the day, he said. “It’s a real get-things-done state,” Musk declared. “The biggest single factor was time to completion.”

By November, when Musk discussed the deal on an earnings call, he sounded exasperated with continued condemnation of the terms he had extracted from Nevada. Calling the deal a “super-good idea” for the state, he said the criticism “kind of bugs me. I thought we got an okay incentive package, given the scale, but not a super-huge one.”

On average, Tesla makes 20 improvements to the Model S every week

It’s no secret that Tesla has a habit of making substantive and even subtle aesthetic changes to the Model S with each passing quarter. During the company’s recent earnings conference call, for example, Elon Musk and JB Straubel noted that the company in recent months has made marked improvements to Model S seats, the car’s wipers, and even the Model S charge port door. And oh yes, let’s not forget that each new Model S rolling of the line is now equipped with some pretty cool and safety-oriented autopilot features.

Underscoring Tesla’s impressive commitment towards continuously improving the Model S, Motor Trend, in an overwhelmingly positive review of the recently unveiled Model S P85D, relays that Tesla, on average, implements upwards of 20 modifications to the Model S per week.

Meanwhile, the Model S has undergone a quiet mid-cycle refreshing with better standard seats, terrific-looking and highly bolstered front and rear performance seats in the P85D (even in the back!), better whiplash protection, revised (and more conventional) steering column stalks, wider-opening rear doors, a self-closing charge port door, and bigger sunvisors. Everything’s better. During a chat with Musk at the P85D’s introduction, he mentioned that on average, Tesla implements about 20 modifications to the car per week. Not software, mind you, but actual hard parts. Per week.

One of the great benefits resulting from Tesla having only one car on the market is that it can remain laser focused and devote a good deal of attention towards continuously enhancing the Model S.

26-year old who operated Silk Road 2 used illicit proceeds to purchase a $127,000 Model S

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The Dark Web on Thursday suffered a major blow when a trio of law enforcement agencies seized Silk Road 2 along with two additional sites. At the same time, a 26-year old from San Francisco named Blake Benthall was arrested on charges of running Silk Road and, in the process, engaging in and facilitating a number of illegal activities such as the trafficking of illegal drugs and fraudulent IDs.

In reading over the story at Wired, a blurb regarding Benthall’s spending habits caught my eye.

The complaint also traces Benthall’s proceeds from his alleged management of the Silk Road 2′s bustling sales. Law enforcement officials found that he used a bitcoin exchange to cash out $273,626 between Silk Road 2′s creation in November of last year and October of this year. About $70,000 of that money went towards a down payment on a $127,000 Tesla Model S.

I suppose even individuals in the seedy underworld of the Dark Web know a quality vehicle when they see it.

And as it turns out, it appears that Benthall, for a short time, actually worked as a software engineer at SpaceX.

Elon Musk talks all things Model X; if you order today “the car is gonna get delivered in early 2016″

model x delay

Tesla earlier today announced that it was pushing back the release of its highly anticipated Model X until the third quarter of 2015. Explaining the delay, Tesla relayed the following in its quarterly shareholder letter:

Work continues on the finalization of Model X with the testing of Alpha prototypes and initial builds of the first Beta prototypes. Model X powertrain development is almost complete with the early introduction of Dual Motor drive on Model S. We recently decided to build in significantly more validation testing time to achieve the best Model X possible. This will also allow for a more rapid production ramp  compared to Model S in 2012.

During Tesla’s earnings conference call on Wednesday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk shed a bit more light on all things Model X.

While articulating that work on the Model X’s drivetrain and chassis are nearly complete,  Musk said that the company is still working on some of the features that distinguish the Model X from the Model S, most notably the vehicle’s Falcon Wing doors and the extra seating.

“We’re adding some new stuff that’s really not out there,” Musk explained. “Stuff that has never existed in a way that was useful before.”

When asked if Tesla was encountering some overarching engineering challenges in finishing up the Model X, Musk indicated that the delay, in part, is the result of Tesla’s obsession with getting every small detail exactly right. Tesla, Musk proudly stated, is perfection-obsessed when it comes to future products.

There’s no big thing, it’s a bunch of little things. It’s really about getting all the details right. And I think people will appreciate that we get the details right. If you get all the details right, its the difference between a diamond with a flaw and a diamond without out a flaw. It’s damn hard to do that but thats what we’re going to do.

On a related note, Musk also took some time to point out that manufacturing a complex and advanced car on a massive scale is no small feat.

People don’t quite appreciate how hard it is to manufacturing something…  Making one of something is quite easy. Making lots of something, consistently, that can last a long time is extremely hard. In fact, it is way harder to make the machine that makes the machine than to make the machine in the first place.

So we have Model X  Alphas done… and it would certainly be easy for us to make a handful of production units, but that doesn’t really move the needle.  So what really matters is at what point can we scale production of a really high quality car, and that’s really in the third quarter.

And we also learned this lesson in manufacturing; you have issues that are sometimes 1 out of 100, and unless you make 100 of something you don’t see it… but you don’t necessarily know which 1 out of 100 so you have to look at all 100 cars. Once you get into volume manufacturing, there are statistically rare issues, but you really have to make a bunch of something to know it’s there. And we want to make sure we do that with the X experience.  It’s a lesson we’ve learned. I do think the X is going to be something quite special. It’s hard to get there. It’s hard to engineer and it’s hard to produce.

It’s also worth pointing out that while some folks who have already submitted a deposit for the Model X may get the vehicle come Q3 2015, Musk indicated that anyone ordering the Model X today won’t likely get the car until 2016.

I think realistically if someone is ordering the Model X right now, the car is gonna get delivered in early 2016. So we’re essentially sold out of 2015.

As for how the Model X will resonate with consumers, Musk confidently stated that the car will do well, noting numerous times that it’s a “phenomenal” and “really special” car that will address a different market segment than the Model S.

So while the delayed release of the Model X is undoubtedly frustrating for eager consumers, the following excerpt from Tesla’s shareholder letter should nonetheless assure buyers that when their Model X finally comes off the line, it’s gonna be a best-in-class vehicle.

This also is a legitimate criticism of Tesla – we prefer to forgo revenue, rather than bring a product to market that does not delight
customers. Doing so negatively affects the short term, but positively affects the long term. There are many other companies that do
not follow this philosophy that may be a more attractive home for investor capital. Tesla is not going to change.