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In addition to announcing plans to build up to 94,000 vehicles next year, Tesla released another lofty goal during its third quarter earnings conference call.
CEO Elon Musk said the company is now working to increase drivetrain durability with the aim of building a unit that “never wears out.” Previously, Tesla had been targeting about 200,000 miles.
“We are very happy with the quality of the drive unit,” Musk said during the earnings call. “We changed the goal of the drive unit endurance from being approximately 200,000 miles to being a million miles – basically we want drive units that just never wear out. That’s our goal. I think we made really good progress in that direction.”
One method Tesla is using to improve wear came from a change in the drive unit’s lubrication.
“We transitioned to automatic grease injection into the spline of the large drive unit – we had variation in how much grease was put into the spline and if not enough grease was put into the spline, it would have premature wear,” said Musk.
The issue of reliability for Tesla has been a hot topic lately after Consumer Reports downgraded the Model S to “below average” reliability and pulled its recommendation for the sedan. Mark Rechtin with Consumer Reports said the drivetrain was one of the “main problem areas” for the car.
“Based on survey responses, Tesla has made a habit of replacing the car’s electric motors,” said Rechtin. “When automakers roll out new technology, be it infotainment, transmissions, or engine variations, it often has a deleterious effect on vehicle reliability. Tesla is not only the poster child for a new type of high-performance, high-mileage EV, but it also has been adding complex new variations as assembly-line updates, such as all-wheel drive this year. So it’s not surprising to see problems continue to crop up.”
Rechtin noted that not every electric vehicle struggles with reliability. The Nissan Leaf, for example, was rated with “above average” reliability for several years, and “average” reliability this year. He added that the Model S also has higher performance, higher technology and a longer range than the Leaf.