Tesla’s paint shop is no bottleneck for Model 3, Tesla says ‘on track for 500,000 cars in 2018’


You might remember the Daily Kanban and Edward Niedermeyer for their report from a few months back that spurred attention on a probe by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on an alleged defect with Tesla’s suspension.

As we reported, the report turned out to be based on bogus complaints to NHTSA and the agency didn’t find any defect.

This week Niedermeyer is back with another hit piece on Tesla. He is now asserting that Tesla’s new paint shop will create a bottleneck for the automaker’s production ramp for the Model 3 due to air quality permits limiting the emissions allowed at the plant.

To be fair, Niedermeyer did a great job digging up documents and air quality permit applications, but he is grossly reaching with his conclusions based on the information found in those documents.

The piece is making a ton of assumptions in order to come to these conclusions, including on the actual emissions from the paint shop — for example assuming the VOC emissions of the paint used by Tesla — and that the fact that they wouldn’t be able to get an updated permit for higher production outputs.

Niedermeyer estimates that the current air quality permits would allow for only ~220,000 vehicles per year. That number itself could be challenged, since as previously mentioned, it contains several assumptions, but it also assumes that it is a problem right now even though the company isn’t close to a production rate of ~200,000 cars per year and it doesn’t plan to reach that for at least another year.

Tesla is currently producing around 2,000 vehicles per week for an annual production of ~100,000 cars per year.

A Tesla spokesperson sent us the following comment:

“Our paint shop remains on track to accommodate 500,000 cars in 2018.”

In a Q&A following his report, Niedermeyer said that it would be almost impossible for them to get to 500,000 since they haven’t applied yet for another permit for VOC emissions limit.

A source at the automaker told Electrek that the paint shop will expand as the overall production increases at the Fremont plant. The company plans for the project to “comply with all applicable laws including environmental laws”.

Additionally, the same source tells us that the permit restrictions outlined by Daily Kanban’s story don’t reflect Tesla’s current situation with paint shop – indicating that the VOC emissions are lower.

In a filing earlier this year, Tesla disclosed that it is working on a $1.3 billion expansion of its Fremont Factory for the Model 3 assembly line. In its shareholders letter last month, the company said that it expects to invest about $2.25 billion in capital expenditures in 2016 alone, in order to support its new accelerated production plan for Model 3.

Tesla plans to start production of the Model 3 in late 2017 and ramp up to 500,000 cars in Fremont in 2018. There are plenty of challenges for the company to go from their current production rate of ~100,000 to 500,000 in less than 2 years, but it doesn’t sound like air quality permits for the paint shop is one of them.

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