The Tesla teardown taught Toyota that the Japanese car company’s famed designed-for-manufacturing expertise had been one-upped in many ways. The latest versions of the Model Y, Toyota discovered, looked the same on the outside but had been completely revamped underneath.
Tesla’s use of giga casting eliminated countless parts and brackets by essentially casting the vehicle’s front and back as two giant modules.
Also, instead of plunking the battery into a frame between the axles, the latest Tesla battery layout acts structurally as the floor itself.
By one Toyota estimate shared with Automotive News, Tesla’s approach eliminated hundreds of parts and up to 220 pounds, while boosting the vehicle’s battery range and slashing overallcosts.
“It’s a whole different manufacturing philosophy,” one executive said.
“We need a new platform designed as a blank-sheet EV,” said another.
Caresoft Global Technologies, a Michigan-based engineering company that does digital and physical benchmarking and cost reductions, reckons full-EV startups such as Tesla have a significant first-mover advantage because they rethink engineering challenges from scratch.
Tesla, for example, replaced the industry’s traditional 3.5 mm thick powertrain cooling hoses with 1.5 mm ones manufactured with a lower-cost material. Tesla was able to do so because the cooling fluid for electric vehicles doesn’t get as hot and does not need to be as highly pressurized to prevent boiling as it is used for internal combustion engine cooling.
In some vehicles Caresoft has analyzed, that saves at least $25 and 11 pounds per vehicle.
The same approach applies to Tesla’s frunk, using the front engine bay for trunk space while hiding away such components as the inverter under the rear seat.
Legacy makers such as Toyota and Nissan, even in their latest EVs, still pack the old engine bay area with components, potentially missing an opportunity to wow customers with new features.
“It’s that outside view of not being part of the industry,” Caresoft CEO Mathew Vachaparampil said of new EV makers. “An outsider typically disrupts the traditional industry with a better idea.”