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Tesla To Retire Iconic “Skateboard” Design In Favor Of New Structural Battery Design

Tesla has decided to retire its iconic “skateboard” design of the vehicles, in favor of the new structured battery pack design. The skateboard concept consisted of the battery pack on the floor of the vehicle. The electric motor was placed between the two rear wheels at the time. The design will be phased out slowly to accommodate the new design that was discussed on Battery Day.

Tesla To Retire Iconic “Skateboard” Design

The Introduction of the Skateboard

Tesla had gone for a complete upheaval after the challenging ramp of the original Roadster. The Model S was their first vehicle in this new lineup, and they decided to adopt this skateboard concept. With the battery pack along the floor and motor on the rear axle, the design became quite famous at the time. Heavyweights like Audi and newcomers like Rivian started following the design, and it soon became famous.

However, now with the battery structure being based on efficiency and space-saving, Tesla has decided to phase it out. Watch Tesla Chief Designer Franz von Holzhausen explain the skateboard concept in the video below.

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During the Q/A session of the third-quarter earnings call, analyst Phillipe Houchois asked if Tesla is looking to retire the skateboard design. CEO Elon Musk at that time responded that this design would soon become obsolete in the long term. While the transition to the new structure is going to take time, Musk explained the understanding behind retiring the iconic design.

The battery pack lends structural value to the body due to the composite honeycomb effect of the share transfer between the upper and lower plates. Musk mentioned that any design that does not have this is going to be a “duplicate hardware”. That is because it is going to weigh more and it is going to cost more. He said that Tesla tries to build a vehicle like the model of a toy car. “If you are trying to make a toy car, you want it look good and be cheap – so you cast it” is what he stated. That also validates the use of the front and rear castings for the Model Y.

The New Structural Design

Musk said that the transition to the structural battery packs could be seen as a natural progression. He compared this to the initial designs of the aircraft, which would have separate aeroshells for fuel tanks.

Musk said “It would be absurd to make it up of tiny little pieces of stamp metal joined in complex ways. So it’s sort of a natural thing to do. And then the same goes for using the energy storage, the battery as a structure, which is done for aircraft wings and for rockets. The early rockets and aircraft, they had a separate aeroshell from the propellant tanks or fuel tanks, and then they realized that doesn’t make sense. And you’ve got to integrate — you’ve got to have your fuel tank in wing shape. You’ve got to have your propellant tanks in the shape of the body of the rocket, for example. You don’t want to put a box on a box, basically.”

Leapfrogging the Opposition

Tesla had managed to move a lot of steps ahead of its opposition when it came up with the skateboard design. It was simple, elegant, and most importantly, effective. Many companies followed suit with this concept. But now, companies like Lucid Motors have started giving Tesla some competition. This latest rival has come up with a record-shattering range of 519 miles (835 km). The company mentioned that the reason for this figure was the efficiency in the space of the battery pack that they have managed. There has also been a lot of resurgence from the European giants in the electric industry too. Porsche have the Taycan, and they are also aiding Audi with the eTron GT. While Tesla’s progress in the past week or so has been impressive, they are not clear leaders right now.

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The new structural battery pack design will help Tesla in maintaining the lead again. The skateboard design was a game-changing idea at the time. If Tesla actually manages to integrate the battery modules within the vehicle design, they can definitely make significant improvements in the battery efficiency. Of course, this will depend on how seamlessly the new design gets included into the design of the car.

Our Opinion

Tesla has achieved a lot of its success on the back of the skateboard design. They went on to keep increasing the range on their vehicles with every new version. Model S had started of with a vehicular range of 265 miles (426 km). The current range of the Model S is 402 miles (647 km). The newly-introduced Model S Plaid is expected to have a range of “at least” 520 miles (837 km), and it will feature the new battery pack design. The new design is going to have a major impact on Tesla’s performance in the future, that is for sure. Sometimes, you have to let go of an integral part of your past to move on to the future. This is just another example of that.

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Mihir Tasgaonkar
A mechanical engineer who loves reading and writing about new technologies in the automobile industry.

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