Tesla is one of several automakers attempting to retool factories to build ventilators in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The Silicon Valley firm released a video showing how it plans to use Model 3 parts to make a ventilator.
The Tesla-designed ventilator uses a touchscreen and computer from the Model 3 infotainment system. The computer controls other repurposed Model 3 computers, which manage airflow through the machine through multiple valves connected to a Tesla-designed manifold.
Using existing car parts could help Tesla get its ventilator into production quicker. Tesla has the parts on hand, and doesn't have to compete with medical-device companies for supplies. Engineers are also familiar with these parts, so the learning curve is less steep.
Tesla ventilator made from Model 3 parts
Other automakers have pledged to build ventilators and other medical supplies in order to address a national shortage. Ford is partnering with GE Healthcare to build ventilators at a Michigan factory, and is working with 3M to produce respirators using some repurposed car parts, including fans from F-150 seats. General Motors is working with Ventec Life Systems to build ventilators at an Indiana factory.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk previously said the company's Buffalo, New York, factory would reopen to produce ventilators. That factory normally builds solar panels, while car production takes place in Fremont, California. Both factories are currently shuttered due to stay-at-home orders in their respective states. It's unclear if Tesla will build ventilators in Fremont as well.
Musk initially described the response to the pandemic as "dumb," but soon pivoted to offering help. In addition to making plans to manufacture ventilators, Musk pledged to purchase the devices and send them to hospitals in need. He was criticized for potentially sending bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machines rather than the invasive machines typically used to treat coronavirus patients with breathing issues. But New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo subsequently confirmed plans to use BiPAP machines as a substitute due to lack of conventional ventilators.