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Tesla Gigafactory Shanghai: Manufacturing A Model Y Faster Than You Can Brew Espresso

Tesla's Gigafactory in Shanghai is already one of the fastest production hubs in the world; assembly lines are already capable of assembling a black Tesla Model Y in just 40 seconds, an amazing feature. Now, to make coffee using a French Press would take you 2-4 minutes; espresso has an especially brief brew time: it is in contact with the water for only 30-40 seconds.

At the end of 2018 Tesla began construction work on its first plant outside the United States. The Shanghai Gigafactory has always shown a pace different from any other major car factory in the world; the Chinese facilities were built in record time and in December 2019 the assembly lines were already beginning to produce the first units of the Tesla Model 3. Since then, the Giga-Shanghai factory has steadily gained speed, so much so that today it is capable of producing a Tesla Model Y in less than a minute.

Tesla Model Y, Courtesy of Tesla Inc.

The exact time is 40 seconds: in such an incredibly short time frame, every 40 seconds a Tesla Model Y rolls off the assembly line. Doing the basic math, it means that the Shanghai plant produces 90 Model Y units every hour, although there is a catch: to achieve this amazing pace of work, the compact SUV must be black, only. It is the most evolved color in the paint shop; something quite curious considering that black is actually a very complicated color that usually reflects all the irregularities of the bodywork.

Tesla Model Y, courtesy of Tesla Inc.

The main goal of the Austin company - or in fact, any other manufacturer - is to produce more cars in less time in order to reduce costs and increase profit margins, very logically. If any given operator team gets paid “X” and in its working time assembles 20 cars, the cost per vehicle will obviously be lower if that same operator team makes 40 units during the same working hours. The same reasoning applies to all the machinery in a production plant. Thanks to these efficiency, it is logical that Tesla achieves a profit margin eight times higher than Toyota with sales six times lower.

As a rule of thumb, big legacy manufacturers have each assembly process measured to the millimeter: factories such as Volkswagen are capable of producing a car at the line every 54.6 seconds; in other cases the timing is even lower. That basically means that Tesla has in fact managed to match the manufacturing capabilities of its greatest rivals, something that has long served as an argument for the biggest detractors of the Austin brand. So far, only the Shanghai Gigafactory in China has reached it, but the pace at the Fremont plant in California is keeping up as well, as it is considered the most productive factory in the entire United States.

Giga Shanghai, courtesy of Tesla Inc.

One of the secrets is the constant improvement of the assembly processes that help reduce the idle time of each car in the assembly stations. This past summer Tesla actually invested more than 180 million dollars to expand the capacities of these assembly lines. So far, the works carried out have made it possible to explore new production volumes never before seen in the company. The clear objective is to reach that same production volume in the other Gigafactories as well, although for that to happen it would be necessary that the markets go back to more stable times in terms of availability of raw materials.

Next time you prepare your Espresso coffee in the morning or afternoon, just remember that, depending on how complicated or slow your procedure is, the timing would represent the equivalent of 2 or 3 Tesla Model Y units coming out of the Giga Shanghai assembly lines.

All images courtesy of Tesla Inc.

Nico Caballero is the VP of Finance of Cogency Power, specializing in solar energy. He also holds a Diploma in Electric Cars from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, and enjoys doing research about Tesla and EV batteries. He can be reached at @NicoTorqueNews on Twitter. Nico covers Tesla and electric vehicle latest happenings at Torque News.