Enthusing that the greatest potential lies in “building the machine that makes the machine”, Musk is continually finding ways to achieve his goal of producing EVs at “at least walking speed”.
Last year, Tesla patented a new type of cable that’s easier to manipulate by robots. Recently, Tesla has applied for another patent; this time for new wiring architecture that will help to ultimately replace humans with robots in the manufacturing process.
Tesla has already reduced the length of wiring harnesses in its vehicles; bringing it down from 3km in the Model S, to 1.5km in the Model 3. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the length to just 100m for the Model Y.
In a new patent application, which was obtained by Electrek, Tesla outlines the current problems with traditional car wiring.
Traditional car wiring for vehicles are piecemeal solutions. Typically, there are different wiring harnesses that connect each different electrical component to a central battery or power source. Each component receives power, but requires multiple wiring harnesses for communication and signals. The total length of the wire may be many miles within a single vehicle. These wiring harnesses typically consist of multiple round conductors that are not rigid. Round conductors are not optimal for transmitting current and the lack of rigidity of traditional wiring harnesses requires assembly into the vehicle using human hands, which can be a slow process. Further, connecting each component to the central battery is not optimized on an automobile level.
The patent application describes harness systems that are more rigid, and can, therefore, be more easily manipulated by robots.
In this new wiring architecture, subsystems are packaged and defined in one or multiple assemblies in certain embodiments. For example, a door assembly might contain one controller (or hub) that controls multiple devices, such as locking components, lighting components, audio components, etc.
In addition to decreasing the number and length of wiring needed, the ability to create these subassemblies and then connect them to the wiring-architecture backbone will decrease assembly time during general assembly, which is very desirable to increase productivity in a vehicle manufacturing process.
The subassembly may be created ahead of general assembly with only the connection between the door subassembly and subsystem made and verified during general assembly.
The technology is expected to find its first application in the Tesla Model Y, Tesla’s upcoming 2020 Compact SUV.
Reduced labour costs would lead to higher gross margins, and ultimately more affordable EVs- so perhaps we’ll see Tesla hit that mythical $25,000 price point in the near future that will mean tofu in every pot and an EV in every garage.