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Model 3 Appears Aluminum

Discussion in 'Model 3' started by dandurston, Mar 20, 2016.

  1. dandurston

    dandurston Member

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    Perhaps this has been debunked elsewhere, but the recent analyst visits to the Freemont factory are saying that Tesla has increased the capacity of their aluminum stamping machine by 10-20x.
    Analysts Tour Tesla Factory, Come Out Giggling Like Schoolgirls

    If that's true, it appears the added capacity is for the Model 3, so it's likely to be mostly aluminum.
     
  2. Twiglett

    Twiglett Single pedal driver

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    original comments seemed to indicate steel, but that doesn't seem to have been stated recently.
    Who knows, maybe they are sticking with aluminum, as you mentioned, the analysts didn't highlight any steel presses.
     
  3. forumman83

    forumman83 Member

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    I understand that steel is approximately half the cost of aluminum; given the total steel/aluminum used in the making of a vehicle, how much additional cost are we talking here if they do indeed go with aluminum?
     
  4. ELRev

    ELRev Member

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    The base model will be $35,000. We're much more sure of that than of the materials they'll use to make the car. If they manage to make all Model 3s out of aluminum, they're rockstars, but the car will cost the same base amount. They've confirmed that multiple times, without mention of steel vs. aluminum.
     
  5. hockeythug

    hockeythug Active Member

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    How much aluminum they use(if any) will prolly depend on the size, cost, and weight of the battery.
     
  6. forumman83

    forumman83 Member

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    My question wasn't in regards to the cost of the vehicle to the consumer.

    I was referring to the cost of the vehicle to Tesla to manufacture using aluminum instead of steel.

    Are we talking a few thousand dollars difference?
     
  7. dandurston

    dandurston Member

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    Recently one of the main Tesla engineers was talking about considering cost in a broader picture. The example was that a more expensive motor might actually be cheaper if it's also more efficient and the added efficiency enables using less batteries.

    So aluminum is obviously more expensive than steel but it also saves a ton of weight. I don't know what the costs are, but it's possible that the lower weight helps offset a good portion of this.
     
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  8. forumman83

    forumman83 Member

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    Thanks for the information. I'm just looking for a round figure here...
     
  9. Stretch2727

    Stretch2727 Engineer and Car Nut

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    #9 Stretch2727, Mar 20, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2016
    I think this is analysts not really understanding the process. The stamping dies are for aluminum. The dies are unique to the part that is being made and shape the material. The stamping machines can do either steel or aluminum. If they choose steel the stamping dies will need to be designed for the material.

    This maybe one bit of information they hold back on at the reveal. Selective use (hood, doors, etc.) of aluminum is probably a better idea due to the high repair costs of aluminum.
     
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  10. WarpedOne

    WarpedOne Supreme Premier

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    A presentation at the International Aluminium Conference by Richard Schultz, aluminium consultant and former President of Alcoa Automotive Structures, concludes that an aluminium car body structure costs automakers between US$1,400 to US$4,600 per vehicle more on average depending on production volume, or a 65% premium over a steel car body frame.

    Source

    This aluminum/steel dilemma is a false one. Model S is NOT completely aluminum structure and Model 3 will NOT be completely steel. Tesla might use MORE steel components in 3 than in S or X and that's it.
    They will still use plenty of aluminum and will thus need plenty of aluminum tooling.
     
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  11. etm33

    etm33 Member

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    Warning: napkin math incoming. Anyone with metalworking/auto building who can refute my numbers, please speak up!

    According to the "How It's Made: Dream Cars" episode on the Model S, the "body in white" of the Model S is 410lbs of aluminum. I have no idea how much is "wasted", but figure ~30%. So, let's call it 550lbs. At Wednesday's commodity price for aluminum of $0.68/lb, 550lbs of aluminum costs $375. 550lbs of steel is $149 at current price of $540/US Ton (this is a number I found for cold-rolled steel; it's much harder to find a price for this than aluminum) - but that's not really helpful, since steel is ~2.5x denser than aluminum. So, that 550lbs becomes 1375lbs, for a cost of $371!

    So, basically no difference in cost - and less retooling/retraining for Tesla's current manufacturing capability. And who knows how much more battery would be needed to move the additional weight with sufficient range? It may not be completely unreasonable for larger amounts of aluminum to be used than originally expected.

    Now, somebody needs to check on my assumptions re: steel density/prices/how much steel you'd need to cover the same amount of body area. I have a bad feeling I'm missing something....but I've looked it over a couple of times and can't find it.
     
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  12. tga

    tga Active Member

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    People need to stop obsessing over aluminum. Aluminum bodywork is becoming commodity technology. Repair costs will continue to drop, and we will have 2 years before anyone needs to worry about repairing a Model 3.
    • My 2009 Chevy pickup has an aluminum hood
    • The F-150 now uses aluminum bodywork
    • The 2016 Miata (starts at <$25k) has a bunch of aluminum bodywork
     
  13. MikeBur

    MikeBur ManualPilot

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    "I was told there would be no math!"

    Irrespective, the cost of retooling for steel in the larger presses, and benefit of the decreased weight (to meet the >200 mile requirement), likely makes the cost difference of raw materials a secondary consideration. I would be completely surprised if this were *not* aluminum.

    The bodyshop repair costs for panels are coming down significantly for Model S; this may be due to increased production capacity (ie. not being demand constrained anymore) or pressure from insurers. This does open up an interesting debate on the expected insurance bracket for Model 3 given previous Tesla models are all very costly to insure... though that's likely a different topic ;-)
     
  14. Red Sage

    Red Sage The Cybernetic Samurai

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    If the frame and bodywork for Model ≡ is made of aluminum, I will be very happy. I've said before that Tesla Motors gets their aluminum from ALCOA. That is the same supplier for Ford's F-Series pickup truck bodies. I'm sure that ALCOA would be willing to cut a deal on pricing, knowing that Tesla Motors will be going from ~50,000 units to over 500,000 units within the next few years.
     
  15. AlanSqB

    AlanSqB Member

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    Ah-lu-min-e-um! Hooray.

    Seems like Model 3 is going to be more like Model S than not.
     
  16. Krugerrand

    Krugerrand Active Member

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    New tooling would be required regardless of their choice to use steel or aluminum. They can't make Model ≡ body panels with Model S or X tooling.
     
  17. James Anders

    James Anders Member

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    I've said this before that it would make sense for them to stay with AL.

    Processes, tooling, painting, primering could all stay the same. Plus the added benefit of weight reduction. Yes, aluminum is more expensive as a raw material but there's savings to be realized by keeping things the same.

    If you use body tools made for steel cars on alum cars it can cause a lot of problems. I own an Acura NSX and own the factory body manual. Amazing how much that's different for aluminum and the precautions a body shop must take. Grinding and polishing surfaces in particular.
     
  18. J1mbo

    J1mbo Member

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    Wouldn't be surprised to see more plastic panels as well. Front wings, hood & roof are all good candidates. Will keep the price & weight down, and could reduce the impact of repairs on the supply chain over factory-sourced aluminium parts.
     
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