Posted on May 18, 2016 by Matt Pressman
During Tesla Motors [NASDAQ: TSLA] recent first quarter earnings call, CEO Elon Musk stated, "We plan to incorporate our best technology into Model 3, yet keep it relatively simple to build at high volume and with high quality... [and] design the car to be easy to make." Randy Carlson from Seeking Alpha* points out one key feature that exemplifies this: "Tesla made a lot over the cool glass roof on Model 3. It looks great. It improves rear seat headroom. Tesla has mastered the coatings/absorber technology to keep out damaging UV rays, brilliant sunshine and uncomfortable heat with big glass roofs on Model S... [but] besides being cool, besides being innovative, Model 3's big rear glass roof is simple."
Above: Extending the Model 3 rear window forward to form a glass roof eliminates components and strengthens the rear of the car much as the windshield strengthens and stiffens the car forward of the 'A' pillar (Source: Seeking Alpha* via Tesla Motors)
How is this dramatic glass implementation an advantage for the Tesla Model 3? "What Tesla has done, from an engineering standpoint, is add a second windshield to the back half of the car. No new 'technology' here - windshield mounting by gluing the glass directly to the body ('direct glazing') is common on today's cars and increases the strength of the roof/'A' pillar structure. Tesla has just done to the roof and the back what the world already does to the front of the cabin."
Above: Tesla Model 3 top view (Source: Motor Trend)
Is this this unique glass roof an industry first? It isn't, but, "what is innovative about the Model 3 glass roof isn't the technology, it's the design - that is the applying of existing technology in a clever way that makes the car better and at the same time simpler... We have just seen Tesla innovate to make Model 3 less costly and easier to make." It's important to note that Tesla Motors has been refining/improving on this approach since 2012 with the Model S panoramic roof and, more recently, with the Model X's extra large windshield (see below).
Above: (top) Tesla Model S panoramic roof; (bottom) Tesla Model X windshield (Source: Tesla Motors)
And although it hasn't been officially confirmed, it's possible that Tesla Motors might also be tapping a tried-and-true supplier, Peru-based glass maker AGP. According to Electrek, "The company [recently] built a new state-of-the-art facility in Lima, Peru, where it now manufactures the new [Model X] windshield... [which] gives AGP the ability to do them at OEM production volumes." In addition AGP, "also claims a focus on the latest in lightweight technology, which they point out is especially important to the electric and hybrid carmakers where less weight means more mileage achieved on a single charge."
In any event, its great to see Tesla Motors taking this unique design characteristic, the extra large glass windshield/panoramic roof implementations executed prior with the Model S and Model X, and, integrate it beautifully (and simply) into the Model 3 design. Having already established strong supplier volumes with high quality -- while at the same time increasing the car's safety and ease of manufacturing -- signifies that Tesla is attentive to making the Model 3 a runaway success.
*Source: Seeking Alpha