Add Gigacasting to the List of Things Tesla Has Given Up On

Tesla’s plan to cast entire chassis was supposed to revolutionize carmaking, but now the company’s reportedly lost faith in the tech.

byJames Gilboy|
Tesla unibody sections at Fremont


One of the technologies that's supposed to sustain Tesla's lead for the next generation of electric vehicles is the novel new production method of "gigacasting." It's expected to make producing car bodies faster, simpler, and above all, cheaper. But that doesn't seem to be panning out perfectly, as Tesla is reportedly abandoning its plans to cast cars' entire underbodies.

"Gigacasting" has become a buzzword for a form of large-scale, high-pressure casting that has garnered interest even from legacy automakers. Toyota is one of the technology's biggest proponents, despite early problems with casting quality at Tesla and concerns of the castings' repairability down the line. Even so, Tesla was expected to further casting tech by using it to produce EVs' entire floorpans, which it'd use to underpin its future Robotaxi and entry-level EV. But that's reportedly no longer the case.

Tesla assembly line in Texas. Tesla

Speaking to "two sources familiar with the matter," Reuters reports Tesla has abandoned plans to cast complete floorpans for future vehicles. Instead, it'll continue using the method pioneered for the Model Y (and continued in the Cybertruck), which uses cast front and rear subframes bridged by a conventional battery enclosure. Tesla reportedly wanted to negate the risk of delays associated with the unproven production method, which has already led to alarming quality problems at smaller scale on existing models.

The decision was reportedly not made during this week's liquidation of Tesla's charging and product development departments, but last autumn before the so-called Model 2's cancellation. CEO Elon Musk denied that this cheaper model has been terminated, and has claimed that it will instead be built using an existing platform and production capacity—just like Reuters' sources indicate. But Musk also said Tesla would have one million driverless taxis on the road in 2020, so his word isn't exactly worth much these days.

Tesla paint booth in Texas. Tesla

Tesla's scaled-back casting ambitions are significant because this discards one of the struggling automaker's supposed trump cards. The company now has an aging lineup with no sign of replacement and driving automation technologies that have fallen far behind the competition. Sales are falling accordingly, which has led to multiple waves of layoffs this year. Musk also openly worries about competition from China, which sells EVs at a fraction the price Tesla can.

Tesla is currently putting all its eggs in the frail basket of a self-driving taxi, despite the company's autonomy tech receiving poor safety ratings from the IIHS. The past decade has shown it's a fool's errand to declare any given moment marks the end for Tesla, but it's also hard to remember any time Tesla's future has looked so dire.

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