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Aluminum or Steel body for Model 3

Discussion in 'Model 3' started by Vitold, Oct 19, 2015.

  1. Vitold

    Vitold Member

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    We know that Tesla's paint shop is ready to paint 500k bodies, so it appears it's ready to paint Model 3. What I wonder is if there are significant differences between painting steel and aluminum which would require two separate paint shops. If yes, than we can be pretty certain that Model 3 will be aluminum as well.
     
  2. jdevo2004

    jdevo2004 Member

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    I am going to bet most of the panels will be some sort of plastic while the frame will be some sort of aluminium alloy.
     
  3. BrianC

    BrianC Member

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    Aluminum will cost way too much to keep the car at 35k. You cant have a costly battery pack and aluminum and a nicely teched up car for that small of a price. Steel/plastic parts body with fabric seats for a base model for sure.
     
  4. Bangor Bob

    Bangor Bob Member

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    #4 Bangor Bob, Oct 19, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2015
    Questions we're not really able to answer, but which Tesla likely is figuring out right now: How much of the cost of an Audi A4 (comparable aluminum-intensive benchmark for the Model 3 starting at $35,900) made up of the drivetrain vs. the aluminum-intensive body? How much battery capacity is saved to hit target range by using aluminum, and is that cheaper than using (and tooling up for) steel? Does going with aluminum for the 3 help them get better pricing for aluminum on the battery packs, S and X - increasing margins there?
     
  5. tga

    tga Active Member

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    Feh. My 6 year old pickup has an AL hood. I think this "AL is too expensive" stuff is overblown. If Chevy can do it, Tesla can.

    Maybe the chassis/unibody won't be AL, but the panels could be.

    I've owned a couple of Saturns way back when. The plastic body panels worked well.

    Frankly, I think they could be plastic/steel/aluminum, take your pick.
     
  6. MassModel3

    MassModel3 Member

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    And one of the nice things about the Saturn was that it didn't easily dent or ding because if it got hit the panel would just pop back out. You might get a scrape or a crack in the paint or the topcoat, but that was the worst of it. I think if the 3 had plastic body panels, I'd be okay with that. It would certainly make for easier repairs by places other than expensive Tesla-approved body shops. But the underlying frame would need to be slightly beefed up because steel or aluminum panels are part of what provides impact protection -- plastic not so much.
     
  7. Bangor Bob

    Bangor Bob Member

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    One more data point. Ford F150. As of 2015, aluminum body, steel ladder frame. Starting MSRP, $26615.

    Eventual annual volume is similar.
     
  8. phigment

    phigment Member

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    Wasn't one of the problems with plastic panels the amount of thermal expansion? Large gaps had to be left between panels. I imagine this wouldn't be ideal for drag coefficient or looks.
     
  9. KJD

    KJD Member

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    If Ford can make a decent profit on an aluminum F150, I am thinking that Tesla can do the same on the Model 3.

    Tesla already knows how to make the panels out of aluminum and they have spent a lot of time perfecting welding and bonding with aluminum.

    A lighter car means that the battery pack can be smaller than with a heavier car and the batteries are still going to a major cost component. I say go with what you know.
     
  10. aronth5

    aronth5 Long Time Follower

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    #10 aronth5, Oct 19, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2015
    I think the added cost of aluminum is overstated but then what do I know.
    My guess is aluminum battery pack with steel body which is a reasonable compromise between weight and cost.
    Would also make insurers happy since it would reduce repair costs which would should help keep insurance premiums lower.

    Another case for some steel from Tesla VP of engineering Chris Porritt:
    “I expect there will be very little carry-over. We’ve got to be cost-effective. We can’t use aluminium for all the components.”

    http://gas2.org/2014/07/01/tesla-model-e-will-built-mostly-steel-priced-realistically/
     
  11. stopcrazypp

    stopcrazypp Well-Known Member

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    A4 is aluminum intensive, but still far less aluminum than the Model S for example. Most of it is steel, esp. the chassis:
    http://www.repairerdrivennews.com/2015/07/07/2017-audi-a4-larger-but-264-6-pounds-lighter-includes-more-aluminum/

    I suspect the Model 3 will be similar.
     
  12. wdolson

    wdolson Active Member

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    Several people at Tesla have said the Model 3 will make much more use of steel. I have seen comments that it will have little to no aluminum.

    There are differences with working steel and aluminum. Steel is more durable and doesn't develop cracks that can propagate like aluminum. Pure aluminum is much softer than steel, but aircraft aluminum alloys can be harder, though much much more expensive. I don't think anybody is using much aircraft aluminum in cars. Purer alloys of aluminum are much more corrosion resistant than steel, which is an advantage. Of course steel, being harder doesn't get damaged as easily and is usually cheaper to repair.

    I don't think there are major differences painting the two metals.
     
  13. Vitold

    Vitold Member

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    Aluminum is much harder to paint than steel. I would imagine that each metal would need to undergo different treatment method such as accid bath and probably paint itself is different but I'm not an expert...

    If Tesla want's to continue to stick it to the oil companies they will not use plastic body panels, including carbon fiber. I think they have substantial know how with aluminum and will continue the path. There are many articles that say Model 3 will be made of steel and I just don't see it. I thought that perhaps Tesla paintshop could give us a hint.
     
  14. WarpedOne

    WarpedOne Supreme Premier

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    Shocker: model s has some steel body parts.
    At most there will be more of them in model E where weight differential is overweigthed by price differential.
     
  15. wdolson

    wdolson Active Member

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  16. FlatSix911

    FlatSix911 918 Hybrid

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    Not much Aluminum on the new Audi A4 ... only the red and blue areas highlighted below.


     
  17. MacroP

    MacroP Member

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    I wonder if Tesla are talking to, or at least considering, Alcoa in regards to their new alloy tech they announced around a year ago. I think Ford are looking to use them very soon.
     
  18. 1208

    1208 Active Member

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    I'd rather they go with Ultra High Strength steel for whole cage, high strength for the front, then mild steel for the rest.
    b75550579a05d718a5597be78529968b.jpg
    Volvo XC90
     
  19. MassModel3

    MassModel3 Member

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    I've wondered that, too. The new aluminum is something like 40% lighter, easier to stamp, and stronger. What I don't know is where it is cost versus today's aluminum.
     
  20. dgpcolorado

    dgpcolorado Member

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    My impression is that the weight saving advantages of aluminum wrt battery size aren't all that large. At highway speeds drag is the main limit on range. In stop-and-go traffic weight is an issue for acceleration energy but some of that is (usually) recovered by regen braking, unlike in an ICE car. And stop and go traffic tends to be at lower speeds, meaning lower drag. I don't buy the idea that aluminum will have a significant impact on the battery size needed for a given range.

    One advantage of reducing the weight in the Model S with aluminum is improving drag race type acceleration and performance. With the Model 3 cost savings should be more important than 0-60 times.
     

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