At a technology workshop in Japan, Toyota, among other things, presented a new production technology that can produce a complete car body in a short time from just three parts. This is made possible by the use of the so-called giga-casting process - an aluminum die-casting technology that Tesla is utilizing in its electric vehicle production, which produces large shell components in one operation in gigantic presses.
What delivers huge cost and time advantages in production could end up costing customers dearly, notes Markus Shonfeld in Auto Motors Sports. Because if the entire rear end of a car consists of just one part, individual parts can no longer be repaired individually after a rear-end collision, for example. Either the entire rear end has to be reinstalled and painted or the car has to be written off as a total loss.
Cars made from just two or three parts
The casting process was demonstrated at the Toyota Myochi plant in Japan using such a rear end. Where in conventional cars the complicated metal parts are brought together using welding, industrial adhesives and other joining techniques, with Gigacasting the basic structure of a car is cast as a unibody and solidified under high pressure. The time advantage is enormous.
A conventionally manufactured Toyota unibody consists of 86 individual parts that are assembled on the assembly line in 33 individual steps over several hours. During the demonstration, the company produced a comparable car part in just three minutes thanks to Gigacasting - albeit from irreparable cast aluminum. Toyota believes that body assembly time could be halved from 20 to 10 hours per car thanks to this technology.
Series production of Toyota electric cars as early as 2026
Meanwhile, Japanese media reports that the technology will be used for the first time on a mass-produced electric vehicle, which will be launched in 2026 with cast front and rear body structures. Toyota is planning gigacasting as an integral part of its own electric strategy.
The aluminum die-casting process became known at the latest due to quality problems at Tesla. At that time, the Americans delivered the first Model Y cars, although upon closer inspection, light even shone through the cracks in the frame. The technology now seems to be establishing itself as a new industry standard, and not just at Tesla. Volvo also wants to produce large aluminum body parts in one piece in the future.
Toyota is repositioning itself for electromobility. Part of the production strategy is the use of so-called gigacasting. Large components of the vehicle body are manufactured in one piece using an aluminum die-casting process. This creates enormous advantages in terms of production costs and time. However, if the car is damaged later, such die-cast parts cannot be repaired.
Gigacasting technology that has excited Toyota so much, promises to revolutionize the production of Tesla vehicles, but like any major innovation, it comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we will delve deep into the world of Tesla gigacasting, exploring what it is, why it matters, and what the potential risks and rewards are.
What is Tesla Gigacasting?
Gigacasting is a manufacturing technique that involves casting large, complex parts of a vehicle in a single piece rather than assembling them from multiple smaller components. In the context of Tesla, it primarily refers to the production of the Model Y's rear underbody structure, which includes the rear suspension and other vital components.
Advantages of Tesla Gigacasting
- Reduced Weight and Improved Structural Integrity: Gigacasting allows Tesla to create parts that are not only lighter but also stronger and more structurally sound. By eliminating the need for welding together multiple pieces, it reduces the risk of weak points in the structure, ultimately enhancing safety and performance.
- Streamlined Production: Gigacasting simplifies the manufacturing process. Fewer parts mean fewer assembly steps, which translates to increased efficiency and reduced production costs. This streamlining can potentially lead to more affordable Tesla vehicles in the long run.
- Enhanced Battery Efficiency: Tesla is known for its cutting-edge battery technology, and gigacasting complements this by allowing for more efficient battery placement. This optimization can lead to better weight distribution and improved handling.
- Environmental Benefits: Gigacasting reduces the need for multiple components, which in turn can reduce the carbon footprint associated with manufacturing. Tesla's commitment to sustainability aligns well with this innovative approach.
Disadvantages of Tesla Gigacasting
- High Initial Investment: Implementing gigacasting technology requires a significant initial investment in specialized equipment and facilities. While it can lead to long-term cost savings, it may take time to recoup the initial expenditure.
- Limited Compatibility: Gigacasting is most effective for specific components, like the rear underbody structure of the Model Y. It may not be suitable for all parts of a vehicle, limiting its applicability in Tesla's product lineup.
- Risk of Technological Hurdles: Any cutting-edge technology carries the risk of unforeseen technical challenges. If issues arise during production, it could lead to delays and increased costs.
- Dependency on a Single Technology: Relying heavily on gigacasting for manufacturing could make Tesla vulnerable to any issues or limitations associated with this technology. Diversification in manufacturing methods may be a safer long-term strategy.
Why Gigacasting Matters
Gigacasting matters for several reasons, both for Tesla and the EV industry as a whole:
- Cost Efficiency: Tesla's mission to make electric vehicles more accessible to the mass market hinges on cost efficiency. Gigacasting is a step in that direction, potentially allowing for more affordable EVs.
- Innovation Leadership: Tesla's adoption of gigacasting showcases its commitment to innovation. This move challenges traditional manufacturing methods and sets a precedent for the industry to follow.
- Sustainability: As the world shifts towards sustainable transportation, reducing the environmental impact of manufacturing is crucial. Gigacasting aligns with Tesla's goal of sustainability.
In my opinion, Tesla's exploration of gigacasting is a bold and commendable move. No wonder Toyota and other carmakers are starting to follow the path, which Tesla is leading. It demonstrates their dedication to pushing the boundaries of electric vehicle manufacturing. However, as with any pioneering technology, there are inherent risks.
Tesla's early experiments with gigacasting have shown promise in terms of cost reduction and structural improvement. The article highlights that the production of Model Y's rear underbody structure using gigacasting has led to efficiency gains. However, it also mentions that the technology is still in its early stages, and there may be hurdles to overcome.
Armen Hareyan is the founder and the Editor in Chief of Torque News. He founded TorqueNews.com in 2010, which since then has been publishing expert news and analysis about the automotive industry. He can be reached at Torque News Twitter, Facebok, Linkedin and Youtube. He has more than a decade of expertise in the automotive industry with special interest in Tesla and electric vehicles.