The Tesla plant in Fremont, California has been retooled in anticipation of the company’s new all-electric Tesla Model X SUV hitting the assembly line floor.
A blog post from the company’s communications team states the “temporary pause” of production was a means of increasing production capacity, which is slated to sit at 35,000 units in 2014 and jump by 50 per cent – to 52,500 units – by the end of 2015. It was recently reported that the all-new Model X will not make it to production until the third quarter of 2015, and Tesla’s US site states that deliveries are expected to commence early in 2016.
According to the post, Tesla “upgraded the assembly line, added capacity to the bodyshop, enhanced powertrain assembly, and revamped facilities for our employees” during the two-week shutdown. Tesla says the changes allow the brand to “produce more cars, faster, while increasing automation and providing a more inviting work environment”.
The changes aren’t small. The company has adopted new robots that can lift more cars with greater ease than the existing overhead steel and mechanical units. According to the post, the robots will soon “even be able to install battery packs in the cars, relieving humans of the most labour-intensive operation in the factory and reducing installation time from four to two minutes”.
In typical Tesla fashion, there’s a twist: the company has named its new robots after characters from the X-Men series, including Xavier (lifting cars down to the floor at the entrance of the trim line), not to mention Iceman, Wolverine, Beast, Storm, Colossus, Vulcan and Havok.
“To us, these robots are like superheroes, so we figured they deserved superhero names,” the blog stated.
The line now includes a rolling function, meaning workers can build the car on the go. According to the blog, this will enable a “streamlined and more consistent workflow”, and the assembly line is currently running at 1000 cars per week, while new conveyors and robots in the powertrain department allows production of 1 million battery cells per day, up from 800,000.
The brand’s new Dual Motor Model S – to be sold locally as the P85D – also sees a new section of the factory set out solely for its production, though there’s a clear hint from the US company that it expects to significantly increase the output of all-wheel drive variants such as the new Model X.