Tesla CEO Elon Musk likes to speak his mind on Twitter, which has occasionally gotten him into trouble. Most recently, Musk’s inaccurate and tasteless comments on coronavirus have drawn criticism, as has his attempt to keep Tesla facilities open in defiance of quarantine orders. The company is trying to do its part during the pandemic, though. Tesla is designing a new ventilator that could save the lives of coronavirus patients, and it’s using Model 3 car parts to do it.
Musk promised to work on building ventilators late last month after New York Mayor Bill de Blasio asked the company for help. Tesla said it would work on creating a new ventilator system, which many saw as a waste of time when there are already designs ready for production. In a new video demo of the Tesla ventilator, the team explains its decision to create something entirely new.
While designing a new ventilator takes time, that’s not the only consideration. Tesla isn’t set up to manufacture ventilators, so using existing designs would come with some trial and error that slowed the process down regardless of the availability of designs. That would cause Tesla to consumer materials and components that the medical industry desperately needs. Tesla’s design doesn’t take away from current medical supplies, and the engineers doing the work to build these machines know the Tesla parts well and have facilities to produce them in bulk.
In the video, Tesla showed off two prototypes, one of which was spread out on a table and another that was mounted inside a box as it would be in a hospital. The ventilator uses a Model 3 suspension accumulator as the gas mixing chamber, and the display and some electronics are straight out of the Model 3’s infotainment system. If Musk is right, using these components will speed up manufacturing when the devices are ready for production. However, we don’t know when that will be.
Tesla is not the only company trying to design a new ventilator to help with COVID-19. Dyson is also looking to make its own hardware to fulfill a 10,000-unit UK government contract. It’s unclear if either Tesla’s or Dyson’s units will be ready in time to help with peak hospitalization. Many areas expect the number of seriously ill patients to exceed hospital capacity in the coming weeks.
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