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Model 3 body in carbon fiber?

Reuters reports that Tesla is talking with a supplier for carbon fiber. May it be for the Model 3?

"GS Caltex and Tesla officials plan to meet late this month to discuss carbon fiber supply. It is still in an initial stage," the source said.

Currently, carbon fiber usage is limited to high-end vehicles like BMW's i3 electric cars and racing cars, partly because of its expense. The material can reduce the weight of a vehicle component by up to 50 percent.

It's already known that it will not be an "all aluminum" body as in Model S.

No.

Could use carbon fiber for certain components that are not expensive to manufacture to save weight? Any experts in this field?

Not a chance. Way too pricey. TM has already announced the gen 3 body will be a combination of steel and aluminum to reduce costs. More steel than in the S, which has only a few reenforcing panels in steel

Not even aluminum. The cost it the main concern. Also Elon said weight does not have that much an effect on range. The drag does. My wild guess is Tesla may be working on some kind of sports car, Roadster II perhaps, where weight important. Actually it not so wild a guess since I've heard it mentioned a couple times from Tesla people.

TM has already announced the gen 3 body will be a combination of steel and aluminum to reduce costs.

I know they have announced that it will not be "all aluminum" (as i stated above), and that most take this as it has to be steel. But I have not read anything that supports this. Do you have a link?

Not saying your wrong, just curious to know.

My wild guess is Tesla may be working on some kind of sports car, Roadster II perhaps, where weight important. Actually it not so wild a guess since I've heard it mentioned a couple times from Tesla people.

I guess your right. So it's probably the Roadster 3.0 that is the "secret card" :)

If carbon gets cheap enough, it will be used in many cars, S, X, new sports car, and the truck.

Great product but too costly right now.

Gen 3 is Steel, per Elon on one video, just to get cost down.

By the way if you think repairing aluminum is hard...

There are many sources for this, none of which actually say it is steel, but they ar every specific that its cannot be carbon fiber. Process of elimination and body language are pretty specific to steel - from CleanTechnica:

"Speaking to the British car magazine about the Model E, former Aston Martin executive and current Tesla VP of engineering Chris Porritt said that:

“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.”

In other words, the Model E won’t be riding on the same platform as the Model S and Model X. Instead, the Model E will get an all-new steel body that will be about 20% smaller than the Model S, so even though it will use heavier steel for most of the chassis, it could still end up being lighter. Also, there’s still the likelihood that the Model E will get a few aluminum components to cut down on weight, such as the hood or trunk lid. Making the Model E from mostly steel will certainly make it cheaper, but just how cheap remains an issue of intense debate and analysis though."

From Autocar:

"Tesla’s next-generation, affordable electric car — the one formerly known as the ‘Model E’ — won’t inherent the all-aluminum construction of its bigger brother, the Tesla Model S.
That’s according to Chris Porritt, Tesla’s Vice President of Engineering, who says that Tesla’s third-generation plug-in will be manufactured using “appropriate materials” for its price point and market segment.

Porritt, who left British prestige marque Aston Martin last year to take up a place at the Silicon Valley automaker,told AutoCar that cost concerns were paramount in finalising the design of Tesla’s first truly affordable electric car.

Talking of the Model S design and construction method, which makes extensive use of aluminum, Porritt said very little of existing Model S manufacturing processes will be used in the as-yet unnamed third-generation Tesla.

“I expect there will be very little carry-over. We’ve got to be cost-effective,” he said. We can’t use aluminium for all the [third-generation Tesla's] components.”

While Porritt wouldn’t give hints as to what would be used instead, it’s likely that Tesla engineers are looking for a cost-effective solution which not only gives the all-new third-generation Tesla the strength it needs to uphold the company’s exemplary safety record but which is also light enough to ensure a decent range per charge.

For now, that likely discounts carbon-fibre reinforced plastics, since CFRP is still more expensive than aluminum.

What’s worth noting at this point is that a change in manufacturing materials will also mean that the third-generation Tesla will likely have its own production line alongside the Tesla Model S and Model X at Tesla’s Fremont facility, since we’d guess Tesla’s existing plant equipment is geared to working with aluminum, not steel or other materials.

In terms of price, Porritt reinforced Tesla’s target market for the third-generation car. Around twenty per cent smaller than the Tesla Model S, the third-generation car will do battle with cars like the Audi A4 and BMW 3-Series in the marketplace. As a consequence, he told AutoCar, the third-generation Tesla would have to be ‘realistically’ priced against both cars. By our calculations, that puts the price of the third-generation Tesla somewhere between $35,000 and $55,000. (£20,000 and £32,000 by today’s exchange rates.)
Whatever the price however, Porrit reiterated that the car would only be viable if Tesla is able to bring its Gigafactory online in time for the start of production in 2016. Without affordable lithium-ion battery cells, there’s no way the Californian automaker can bring the affordable sedan to market."

Currently, carbon fiber usage is limited to high-end vehicles like BMW's i3

Did anyone see the humor in the above? LOL...

Cost is the driver here. Carbon fiber more expensive than Aluminum.

As far as golf-carts go, the i3 is pretty high-end...

Tesla is being conservative about battery cost reductions. I suspect they are targeting an even higher cost reduction than they are publicly admitting, and that public guidance is conservative. As such, Tesla may feel that it has the breathing room to add CF. I also wouldn't be surprised if Tesla's interest in CF was one of the subjects of their recent meeting with BMW officials. BMW has invested a lot into CF for its i3 and i8 vehicles.

Could Tesla be trading its supercharger patents for BMW's CF patents? :)

AR - you do not stack risk over risk. The main risk for Gen3 is the GF. To start a new 10x volume line ( 10x compared to MS/X and i3 ) would be close to suicide.

@Kleist The main risk for Gen3 is the GF.

I say, if your girlfriend (GF) doesn't like the Model 3 then good riddance to her.

Still... it would be a nice surprise! :)

... Tesla did spend an additional $100M on secret R&D this quarter.

@mrspaghetti - the GF (wife) likes the S, so I have to get a second one at some point.

@AR - if you really think about it...

At beginning the Model S battery was 160 Wh/kg - were is it today? 175 Wh/kg?
In order to be on par with gasoline cars Gen3 needs to be in the low two hundreds. If you get there then fancy body work is not a must...

Specify energy Wh/kg enables design
Dollar per kWh enables price point

@Pungoteague_Dave:
Ok. So you had not access to more information then I got. “Appropriate materials” can be steel, but dose not have to be.

Yes, you are probably right, and it will be steel. But as long as they do not say it is steel, so I hold open the possibility that there might be something else.

Yes, carbon fiber is expensive, and probably not what they will use on an low price car. But they also have to look at what BMW has done on the I3, and think hard about if they may do something equivalent. Thats why I thought this could be for the Model 3, But I admit that what carlk said is more likely.

Anyway, thanks for a good and long answer :)

Carbon fiber is really hard to do right, anyone who had experience with using it in school knows that.

BMW can do it for their i3 because it's their speciality. They're also the only car manufacturer who has the process down to be able to do it for consumer cars.

"high-end vehicles like BMW's i3
Did anyone see the humor in the above? LOL..."

Not really, the i3 is quite an advanced car.

*lane assist
*automated breaking
*automated distance keeping
*parking assist
*carbon fiber body

it's probably one of the most advanced consumer cars on the road right now

I'm sure I heard Elon specify steel in one of the European videos -- the Norwegian talk? But that was some time ago.

If you parse Chris's statements - some parts won't be aluminum, but that doesn't mean it will be a steel bodied car.

Model S has a lot of beautiful aluminum castings internally - those are not cheap. Steel stampings would be much less costly for those.

So I think there's still a fair chance the body on the Model 3 will be aluminum. I'd certainly prefer that from a corrosion perspective.

Don't forget the F150 soon will be aluminum-bodied.

BTW - SpaceX is already doing some very cool composites of carbon fiber and aluminum. Different budget of course, but some of their innovations are portable to cars.

Carbon itself is, well, dirt cheap. So it's not a material cost thing, it's a specialized process thing. Spinning carbon fiber is very tricky, but getting more broadly understood.

With time, the processes will get cheap. CF will dominate in many consumer areas because its strength to weight ratio beats metals.

Prediction: Tesla's first personal electric jet will be mostly carbon fiber. Weight is critical there.

Can't wait to VTOL into my garden.

@Sprite: "Not really, the i3 is quite an advanced car.

*lane assist
*automated breaking
*automated distance keeping
*parking assist
*carbon fiber body

it's probably one of the most advanced consumer cars on the road right now"

My Fusion Energi has everything on that list except carbon fiber.
The automated brakeing annoys me when a car in front is turning out of my path but the system doesn't know that and hits the brakes forcing me to override with the go pedal.

@brian "I'm sure I heard Elon specify steel in one of the European videos -- the Norwegian talk? But that was some time ago."

Yes, I had forgotten that. Elon did specifically say the new body would be mostly lightweight steel. He was pretty specific IIRC that steel can be light and much cheaper.

@brian "I'm sure I heard Elon specify steel in one of the European videos -- the Norwegian talk? But that was some time ago."

I have seen the video from Oslo, and can't remember anything about this there. Nothing in the transcript either.

It WILL be steel, you can count on it.

@minervo.florida
Probably yes. But I have tried to follow all news about Model 3, and nowhere have I seen any conformation on this from Tesla other then the using of “appropriate materials” mention above.

I may be wrong, but I thought the i3's body was not pure CF, but a mixture of materials.

@ Sprite,

"High end" is not the same thing as "advanced". The BMW i3, in no way, is a "high end" vehicle. In fact, it's quite an inferior vehicle from the standpoint of aesthetics, performance, range, charging capability, quality of interior materials, etc. My business partner, who drives a Lexus SUV hybrid, sat in a BMW i3 and was completely unimpressed. She is absolutely in love with the Model S by comparison.

Just look at the i3's tires and tell me it's a high end car. Laughable.

I doubt CF is ready for use in a mass market production car. People are already complaining about the cost of aluminum repairs and it would be a lot more expensive to do carbon fiber bodywork. The Model 3 needs to be affordable to maintain, insure, and fix up.


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