DOWNEY - New details have emerged regarding Tesla Motors' plans to develop an electric vehicle production facility on the former NASA property in Downey, a project that would utilize 51 acres of land and more than 1 million square feet of existing building space.In a draft environmental assessment submitted to the Department of Energy in February, Tesla said it would lease land currently occupied by Downey Studios "for an initial term" of 11 years, with two 5-year options to extend the lease. Tesla has been negotiating a lease with Industrial Realty Group the past several months. IRG owns about 57 acres of the 77-acre property. The city of Downey owns the remaining 20 acres and leases it to IRG. Tesla would not comment on negotiations, other than to say, "Deciding where to build our state-of-the art, energy-efficient manufacturing home should be a deliberative process, and we intend to get it right. We have nothing to announce at this time." In the paperwork filed to the Department of Energy, Tesla revealed manufacturing of its Model S sedan would "occur in the three largest buildings on the site property," including Buildings 1, 6 and 290. Building 11 would be used for materials inventory and tool storage space, the paperwork says. Tesla would utilize ancillary buildings for employee services such as changing rooms and break rooms. Building 1, the property's largest structure, will house Tesla's body production, door and lid assembly, paint shop and final assembly. The powertrain assembly would take place in Building 6, and the press department would be housed in Building 290. Vehicles will be stored on the north end of the property. Tesla also has plans to construct a "small, lighted low-speed test track" but its location has not been determined. Tesla's plans do not call for the demolition of any buildings but instead for exterior improvements and alterations, including new paint, truck loading/unloading bays and reconfigured parking. "Tesla's intentions is to limit ground-disturbing activity to interior excavation unless absolutely necessary," the assessment says. Converting the property to suit Tesla's needs would take 18 months, with construction occurring in two 10-hour shifts five days a week, with weekend shifts added "during peak periods." The draft environmental assessment -- necessary paperwork as part of Tesla's $465 million loan from the Department of Energy -- provides specific details on portions of their proposed manufacturing facility: Press Shop - Body panels and closures would be stamped from aluminum in the press shop. This process involves cutting blanks from sheet aluminum, stamping the blanks to form panels and racking completed parts. Multiple dies would be used to form a variety of panels, and an on-site tool shop would maintain the dyes and associated equipment. Completed panels would be transferred to the body shop in Building 1, where they would be formed into completed body shells. Powertrain Assembly - The powertrain assembly area would assemble the Tesla power system for the Model S sedan. Battery modules received from Tesla's Palo Alto facility would be assembled to create a complete battery pack. Assembled battery packs would be conveyed from the battery area to the final assembly area for installation. Body Shop - The aluminum body shell of the vehicle would be assembled in the body shop, including assembling sub-components. The body shop manufacturing process is broken down into framing and panel lines. The automated framing line would consist of a number of stations that would serve to assemble sub-components into the body shell. The processes include brushing, welding, adhesive application and sealer applications. Paint Shop - The assembled body shell would be delivered to the paint shop on a skid conveyor system and loaded onto a pretreatment/E-coat skid. The first process would be cleaning and pretreatment, in which the body would be cleaned and prepared for E-coat. It would then proceed into the E-coat process tanks, which would apply a cathodic protection to the body shell. The body would then be loaded into the gas-fired oven for bake out. The body shell would next enter the decorating area, where powder coating paint would be applied. After this, the body shell would go into a gas-fired oven bake out area. To reduce environmental impacts, Tesla would use a state-of-the-art powder coating process in the manufacture of the Model S sedan. The powder coating process is one of the most environmentally friendly systems available in the marketplace. Compared to a new conventional automobile painting system, this process produces significantly fewer volatile organic compound (VOC)‚Äàand nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, generates less hazardous waste, reduces system maintenance requirements, and uses less energy. Best available pollution control technology in the paint shop would include a thermal oxidizer for VOCs, ultra-low NOx burners in the paint shop ovens, and baghouses or cyclones to reduce particulate emissions. Final Assembly Line - The final components of the painted body shell would be assembled in this area. The major steps in the assembly process include electrical and wiring; doors, carpets, windshield and interior trim; seats; weather-stripping; steering wheel; body chassis; powertrain installation; and tire installation. The principal equipment and processes used during final assembly include body conveyors, nut runners and lift assist equipment. Robotics may be used to apply windshields and back glass sealers. The doors would be removed from the shell and sent to an offline process where the mechanical components, glass and fascias would be installed in the doors. After final assembly, a variety of test stations at the end of the production line would test for all vehicle and system functionality. At the exterior test track, a road rumple strip test and end of line dynamometer roll would be used to diagnose and confirm adjustments to ride and handling characteristics, and to check for noise, vibration and harshness. Vehicles would also be tested for water tightness using a closed-loop water chamber in Building 1. Finished vehicles would be staged for loading on-site. Vehicles would be moved by car carrier to West Coast distribution centers or would be shipped by rail to Midwest and East Coast distribution centers. From there, the cars would be transported to retail stores, where they would be prepared for final delivery to customers.
********** Published: April 30, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 2