A new way of wiring a car has been revealed by electric carmaker Tesla that may greatly improve production time of upcoming models such as the Model Y and its all-electric Tesla ute.
By using the new wiring system as published in a new patent on Thursday, the EV maker hopes also to avoid the type of issues it faced when it tried to automate production of the Model 3.
The attempt to highly automate Model 3 production unfortunately resulted in disappointing delays, and led to CEO and co-founder Elon Musk admitting that “humans are underrated”.
Yes, excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake. To be precise, my mistake. Humans are underrated.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 13, 2018
Electrical wiring is one of the more complex components in a car build, as recognised in the main description of related art for Tesla’s new patent:
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.
With its new wiring harness, Tesla instead wants to simplify its EV wiring – and thereby allow the re-introduction of automation into the build process – by using less cables, and introducing hubs that control multiple devices, such as a door hub to control locks, lights, and audio.
Traditional automotive wiring architectures often have many miles of cables snaking from centralized controllers and power sources to devices through the vehicle.
This new architecture reduces the number and length of cables, and moves certain controllers into subassemblies which then control one or multiple devices present in the vehicle.
This will not only reduce the number of components required for installation (and thus further reducing production costs), it will reduce production time, Tesla says, with subassemblies being created and checked prior to reaching each car’s actual production line.
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.
New approaches to building cars is what Tesla is all about – from its early days on the factory floor nutting out how to make the Model S, it has broken new ground and confounded the traditional automotive industry – it’s actually a wonder that the EV maker has continued using a traditional electrical system architecture for this long.
While Musk has put it in record that the Model Y uses 3/4 of the Model 3’s current architecture, it seems that its lifeblood – the electrical wiring – may instead be entirely new, and it will be interesting to see the follow on results on the production floor.
Here’s a few random images from the patent, although if you really want to delve deeper you can view it yourself here.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.