Tesla has filed a patent for a more efficient power assist steering system for its vehicles as the automaker appears to focus on improving the efficiency of its sub-systems.

We recently reported on Tesla developing a new futuristic-looking electromagnetic wiper that they claim would be more energy-efficient than traditional wipers.

Earlier this week, we also reported that Tesla is working on its own “more efficient” seat design with a temperature-control system.

Now the automaker is applying for another patent that would improve on the efficiency of another of Tesla’s subsystems.

Tesla applied for a new power assist steering system that it claims is more compact and power efficient:

The steering system is a compact unit that consumes lesser space as compared to other steering systems that are commercially available in markets. Further, the steering system does not require a large amount of additional power for operation.

According to the patent application, the system was designed by Mark Kaufman, a longtime mechanical design engineer at Tesla responsible for the design of things like “the upper frame for the Falcon Door on the Model X” and several wheels. 

Tesla describes the steering system in the patent application:

This application discloses a steering system for a vehicle. The steering system includes a drive motor having a motor shaft. The steering system also includes a first gear reduction stage for receiving a first rotational input from the motor shaft and providing a first rotational output. A first gear meshes with a second gear of the first gear reduction stage via a helical gear mesh. The steering system further includes a second gear reduction stage for receiving the first rotational output from the first gear reduction stage and providing a second rotational output. The second gear reduction stage may include at least one of a strain wave gearing, a worm drive, and a planetary gearing. In case the second reduction stage is a strain wave gearing, the second gear reduction stage includes an ovular coupler, a flexible coupling, an outer spline, and a plurality of bearing members disposed between the ovular coupler and the flexible coupling. The steering system includes an output shaft for receiving the second rotational output from the second gear reduction stage.

In embodiments of the present disclosure, a steering system for a vehicle is provided. The steering system includes a drive motor having a motor shaft. The steering system also includes a first gear arranged to be rotated by the motor shaft. The steering system further includes a second gear rotatably driven by the first gear. A first gear meshes with the second gear via a helical gear mesh. The steering system includes an ovular coupler arranged to be rotated by the second gear. The steering system also includes a flexible coupling circumferentially surrounding the ovular coupler. The flexible coupling is elastically deformable by the ovular coupler during rotation. Further, a plurality of bearing members is disposed between the ovular coupler and the flexible coupling. The steering system further includes an outer spline meshed with the flexible coupling. The steering system includes an output shaft arranged to be rotated by the flexible coupling.

In embodiments, steering system for a vehicle having one or more steerable wheels is provided. The steering system includes a drive motor having a motor shaft. The steering system also includes a first gear arranged to be rotated by the motor shaft. The steering system further includes a second gear rotatably driven by the first gear. A first gear is meshed with the second gear via a helical gear mesh. The steering system includes an ovular coupler arranged to be rotated by the second gear. The steering system also includes a flexible coupling circumferentially surrounding the ovular coupler. The flexible coupling is elastically deformable by the ovular coupler during rotation. Further, a plurality of bearing members is disposed between the ovular coupler and the flexible coupling. The steering system further includes an outer spline meshed with the flexible coupling. The steering system includes an output shaft arranged to be rotated by the flexible coupling. The steering system also includes a pitman arm arranged to be rotated by the output shaft. The pitman arm is operably coupled to the one or more steerable wheels of the vehicle.

Here are the drawings for the Tesla steering system patent application:

Electrek’s Take

Based on recent patent applications, it really seems like Tesla is focusing on improving efficiency beyond its powertrain and instead looking at other components and subsystems.

Tesla doesn’t explain in detail the efficiency gains. But even if they are small, combined together, like with the new wiper, seats, and steering system, they could start to amount to something significant.

In turn, those efficiency gains could enable Tesla to increase the range of its vehicles without having to increase to energy capacity.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.

Featured Image: Tesla Model 3 gets a Roadster-like steering wheel: love it or hate it?


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