After his notably less careful early statements about the coronavirus pandemic, Elon Musk is now increasingly gearing Tesla’s EV production resources to help. Measures include manufacturing of medical equipment at SpaceX.
As a first step, and to offer more immediate medical relief, Tesla bought 1,255 ventilators in China for use in California. The first 1,000 are said to have arrived in Los Angeles.
However, this does not imply that Tesla will be reverse engineering the medical equipment. The electric vehicle manufacturer also announced that it is to start making ventilators at the Fremont factory in cooperation with Medtronic. Elon Musk said that the Tesla team is “making good progress” in the retooling effort. He also announced he would make the New York factory fit for the effort “as soon as humanly possible”.
Simultaneously, Elon Musk’s rocket shooting business SpaceX, is focusing on manufacturing hand sanitizers and face shields to donate to hospitals. Musk had hinted as much before, when he stated that SpaceX was in the respiratory equipment business. Their engineers developed a life-support system for the company’s Crew Dragon astronaut taxi, which is scheduled to launch on a first crewed mission in May.
While this mission may be in question, retooling production lines for ventilators may also take some time. However, the new stance is a turn from Musk’s earlier attitude of keeping the Gigafactory in Fremont open and operating to the point of the sheriff ordering them to close. Musk at the time wrote an email to employees, stating that the “coronavirus panic is worse than the virus itself”.
In the meantime, however, Tesla reported two cases of Covid-19 in its workforce and also at SpaceX. More so, Tesla had felt the crisis first-hand as it had to suspend operations at the Gigafactory 3 in Shanghai temporarily.
Still, the change of mind is better late than never. Besides, Tesla is not the only electric carmaker turning medical supplier during the Covid-19 pandemic. Volkswagen and first BYD among others had announced similar measures as reported.
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