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Tesla's Model S California plant is the electric auto factory of the 21st century

This weekend, electric carmaker Tesla Motors opened its doors to its first customers of The Model S and took them for a spin. While there, SmartPlanet got a chance to check out the robotic production facility that will manufacture the Model S next summer.
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As Tesla retires its expensive Roadster for a more affordable ride, the new Model S takes the spotlight at the plant in Fremont, California. 

We took a look at the production facility for this $49,500, seven passenger car.

Watch my video to see the production facility.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com
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The former NUMMI factory was formerly used by Toyota to produce some cars for the Toyota line. The factory is capable of producing half a million vehicle per year. At the opening event, the factory looked like a nightclub.

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When gutted, the car is nothing but aluminum sheets of metal. When finished, there's no engine in the front of the Model S. When Tesla's CEO Elon Musk rolled up in the Model S before his talk, an eighth person popped out of the front to illustrate that point.

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Mold is squeezed with 200 tons of pressure using an injection molding method. The plastic molds that came out were hot.

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Tesla is known for its fine, flashy colors. Unlike traditional liquid paints that contain harmful VOCs, the Model S will use power coating for color.

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The car can accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour, faster than a Porsche. The battery pack will include three choices:160 miles, 230 miles, or 300 miles.

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The battery pack is interchangeable. It will come in handy during long road trips, so customers can easily put in a battery pack that has been fully charged.

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Further along in the process, the Model S starts to look more like a car that's ready to be taken for a spin. The doors and the lid are removed for more work. The parts are put together in sub-stations, where the dashboard, seats, and steering wheel are assembled. We saw the beta test version of the new four-door sedan.

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Kuka robots are used for material handling, loading, unloading, and welding.

But you have to wonder, will these robots replace humans?

They may replace some manual labor.

On the flipside, there needs to be humans to program these robots...

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No humans in sight. Robots can see where they need to go.

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The body center can build the car with welding and other tools. While most factories have robots that perform one function, Tesla's electronic robots can do more. The robots can perform up to five tasks. Instead of a piece-by-piece assembly, groups of pieces are assembled together.

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The car is almost ready to drive. Before the car is delivered, it must go through quality testing first to make sure there are no leaks and to be sure it passes the final inspection station.

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Tesla's co-founder Elon Musk talks about the Model S in front of the car's first customers. "The oil companies said electric cars can't work. They don't want them to work. But here it is. They would say this is the equivalent of a unicorn," Musk told the crowd.

Watch Elon Musk's talk in full when he talks about the car.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com
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During Musk's talk, he said the 17-inch LCD display is like a giant iPad. The car maintains its temperature for a couple of hours, so it's comfortable when you return, Musk said. The interior design is the brainchild of former Apple employees. True, the 4G entertainment center should make the ride fun. (Though I haven't taken it for a ride yet, so I don't know how it feels. Only the customers were allowed to go for a ride).

Do you want one?

Can this car change car manufacturing the way Apple changed computers?

 

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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