BYD, Tesla and Nissan are just some of the auto manufacturers offering assistance to help bolster supplies of medical equipment needed to help manage the coronavirus outbreak.
Chinese electric vehicle maker BYD (“Build Your Dreams”) has led the way announcing on Friday, March 13 that it would begin producing 5 million face masks and up to 500,000 bottles of disinfectant per day.
The extra supplies of face masks and disinfectant would “help alleviate severe shortages that have affected hospitals and agencies across China in the face of the global COVID-19 outbreak,” the company said in a statement.
China, ground zero for the start of the outbreak, has been hard hit by the highly contagious and novel coronavirus, and although transmission is reportedly now contained in Hubei province where the virus was first detected, some 80,000 people have been infected.
Now officially dubbed a pandemic by the World Health Organization, supply of enough medical equipment is still a major concern in certain regions around the globe.
BYD, which also makes household batteries, reportedly began manufacture of “high-quality” face masks on February 8, having appointed a special task force with several shifts working night and day to help in the Covid-19 containment effort.
According to BYD, it has completed R&D and creation of mask making equipment in just seven days and is increasing its capacity with another 5-10 new mask making machines each day. It also says its dust-free environments previously used for making smartphones is perfect for the production of face masks.
“A production line for high-quality face masks requires about 1,300 parts for various gears, chains, and rollers, 90% of which are BYD’s self-made parts,” Sherry Li, director general of BYD’s president office, said in a statement.
Other equipment reportedly in short supply is ventilators, and in the UK which currently has more than 2,700 reported cases of Covid-19, there are just 5,000 ventilators.
Nissan, which makes the all-electric Nissan Leaf, is assisting a consortium founded in response to an appeal by UK prime minister Boris Johnson, that includes aerospace companies led by Meggitt and other automakers such as McLaren to develop a basic ventilator prototype, Financial Times reports.
Nissan will focus on manufacturing processes for the ventilators alongside Meggitt, which makes oxygen systems for aircraft, and McLaren which will add its design expertise.
The UK consortium hopes to build 5,000 more ventilators as soon as it can, and up to 30,000 with manufacture expected to start within one month.
Meanwhile, Tesla CEO and co-founder Elon Musk is also considering lending Tesla’s hand in helping the US effort against Covid-19.
The electric car maker already uses bio-weapon level air filters in its Model S and Model X electric vehicles.
“We will make ventilators if there is a shortage,” said Musk on Twitter on Thursday afternoon (Australian time).
We will make ventilators if there is a shortage
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 19, 2020
But it may be that Tesla is upstaged by Detroit carmakers General Motors and Ford, who in world war II assisted the war effort with the production on airplanes and tanks.
Already reportedly in talks with the US government according to Reuters, the two auto majors are discussing how they can assist with ventilator production.
On Friday morning, Musk admitted on Twitter that, “We’re working on ventilators, even though I think there will not be a shortage by the time we can make enough to matter.”
While Tesla is now responding to an Alameda county “shelter-in-place” directive to assist with containment of the virus by announcing it will shut its Fremont factory from Monday 23 March, its Shanghai Gigafactory 3 reopened on February with assistance from China.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and 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. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.