Tesla is using components from its Model 3 sedan to help build coronavirus ventilators, the company's employees explained in a Sunday video. The engineering update, shared via YouTube, explained how the team is working in the lab to produce ventilators and assist the medical industry.
"We want to use parts that we know really well, we know the reliability of, and we can go really fast, and that are available in volume," Joseph Mardall, a Tesla engineer responsible for HVAC systems among other areas, explained in the video.
It's the latest steps in Elon Musk's efforts to bring ventilators and equipment to medical professionals amid the coronavirus pandemic. The CEO has joined Ford and General Motors in the automotive world in pledging manufacturing resources to help plug the gaps in equipment supplies. In this case, Tesla is leveraging parts from the Model 3 sedan it launched in July 2017 to help electric cars reach a mass market – keep an eye out for the 15-inch touchscreen, which usually sits in the center of the dashboard as a futuristic instrument cluster.
Mardall demonstrated the ventilator's schematics, dubbed version 6.3 at the 30-second mark of the video. Components in orange are ordinarily used in Tesla vehicles, blue components are for medical components, and the gray components fall under the "other" category:
During the video, the team describes how a ventilator is used by patients to keep their lungs open and helps them breathe. The air supply moves through to mix with oxygen, then moves through a series of sensors to ensure there is always positive pressure on the lungs. The system uses the Model 3 infotainment system to power the touchscreen, used to manage the system and supply a readout. This, Musk explained, is the second revision of the internal ventilator design.
Watch the full video below:
Musk initially downplayed the risk of the virus versus car crash deaths, comments criticized by health experts, and described the "panic" around the virus as "dumb." Musk has since increasingly shared photos and updates of Tesla and SpaceX's efforts to assist with the fightback.
Omar Ishrak, CEO of medical technology firm Medtronic, stated last month that its firm was working with Tesla to produce one of its ventilators. Musk declared on March 25 that it would reopen its Giga New York facility to produce ventilators.
Tesla's previous efforts to supply ventilators have come under scrutiny. Musk revealed on March 24 that he had purchased 1,255 FDA-approved ventilators from China, ready to ship to the United States. The Financial Times reported on April 2 that the machines were in fact Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure, or BPAP, machines. These non-invasive ventilators are normally used to treat sleep apnea and stand in contrast to the ones used in intensive care units.
These BPAP machines could still play a role in treating Covid-19, however. Mick Farrell, CEO of the firm ResMed that produced Musk's machines, told the publication that the non-invasive ventilation "can be beneficial to many Covid-19 patients struggling to breathe." The FDA has suggested BPAP machines could be repurposed as an alternative to invasive ventilators during the shortage. Musk also wrote on Twitter that "all hospitals were given exact specifications of Resmed & Philips ventilators before delivery & all confirmed they would be critical."
Musk also explained on April 2 the company would start shipping "intratracheal Medtronic units" later that evening in New York City. The NYC Health System shared an image of these newly-delivered invasive ventilators on April 4:
"You’re welcome!" Musk wrote in response.