Tesla’s unique move to create a Material Innovation Advantage
Tesla is looking ahead of the times and focusing it’s R&D towards developing and testing new metal alloys specialized for electric vehicle needs. After it’s validation of the existence of a market, in the now crowding ecosystem, Tesla has to do rapid innovations to stay Product & Performance Leaders.
Tesla had already previously made bold moves by switching quite a few of their performance & weight critical Aluminum parts into Magnesium Alloys, which resulted in the significant performance boost their product needed. And now if a recent patent filing is to be believed, Tesla has yet again managed to baffle their competition by crafting an advanced aluminium alloy, that displays both high yield strength and conductivity to be used as replacement for their standard Aluminium alloy die-casted parts.
Since Charles Kuehmann’s appointment (Apple’s former alloy expert) Tesla have upped their innovation game by many a notch. As the report from Electrek claims, he is heading the materials engineering team for both SpaceX and Tesla now. But, this isn’t much of a surprise, for Tesla are known for having the best hands on deck when it concerns the invention of their full-suite of next generation.
Next Generation of Transport demands new Alloys
As addressed in the patent, Kuehmann and his team have found the exact resolve for next-gen innovations.
Magnesium’s low density, excellent EMI/EMC and incredible damping capability, have made it the go to option across electro-mechanical industries. But the recent electric vehicle revolution has really adopted the material with a new level of intensity. We now have several parts like steering wheels, Wheel rims (Two and Four Wheelers), Battery trays, car cross beams etc. being made exclusively using Magnesium alloys.
The market deals with two broad categories of commercially cast Aluminium alloys - one that offers high yield strength and the other possesses high conductivity. It’s a nasty issue to deal with because both of these traits couldn’t really be found in an existing aluminum alloy in adequate proportions to facilitate the upcoming concepts. A356 Aluminium alloy has a massive yield strength of over 175 mPa compared to 100.1 Aluminium alloy, but the former with a conductivity of 40% IACS lacks the punch that lalter provides with a conductivity of more than 48% IACS.
Tesla’s newly created alloy will be the answer to many such questions. For example, a rotor or an inverter within an electric motor demands a material with both high yield strength and high conductivity.
What adds to the complicacy of the whole process is the unfavorability of wrought alloys to be used for the making. Casting alloys are the desirable choice when it comes to manufacturing of electric vehicle parts. The casting process that offers quick results and is reliable in a way that churns out the outcome with low pressure and high velocity metal injection or a high pressure die casting process.
The electrical and mechanical properties of the alloy may suffer if the castability is poor, further resulting in hot tearing and fill uses that deplete its properties. It is certainly a challenge for Tesla and the team that Kuehmann’s heading to deliver on such a front with maximum efficiency and promise.
For a brighter tomorrow
If Tesla’s claims are to believed, their alloys will give apt performance in the process of die casting, whilst the advanced aluminium alloy also offering an advantage of adjusting the yield strength of 90 mPa and conductivity in the range of 40%-60% IACS.
"In one embodiment, the alloy has the proper fluidity to ensure that the alloy wets the entire length of a mold and the mold is properly formed, and such that the alloy resists hot-tearing and retains the desired yield strength when the cast solidifies.", Tesla was heard quoting.
Engineers around the world are bound to love reading more of what the patent discloses and the inventory of interesting engineering it packs. In contemporary times when sustainability is the need of the hour, Tesla’s constant ambition to develop electric vehicle technology is a positive step and deserves all the appreciation.
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