Tesla plans to retool solar panel factory to make Medtronic ventilators
Green Energy

Tesla plans to retool solar panel factory to make Medtronic ventilators

Coronavirus —

Medtronic CEO confirmed Wednesday that Tesla will make one of its ventilators.


A serious man in a suit.

Enlarge / Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak.

Tesla is planning to retool its solar panel factory in Buffalo, New York, to manufacture medical ventilators, CEO Elon Musk said in a Wednesday tweet.

“Giga New York will reopen for ventilator production as soon as humanly possible,” Musk tweeted. “We will do anything in our power to help the citizens of New York.”

Tesla is making the ventilators in partnership with Medtronic. Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak confirmed the relationship in a Wednesday interview with CNBC.

“We’re opening up with other partners who’ve come forward,” Ishrak said. “Tesla is one that I think people have heard about. One of our ventilators will be made by them, and they’re fast on track to try to make them.”

Ishrak added that “one of the products that we make, that is not our prime product right now, is one that is perfectly suitable at least in some of these instances, they will make.”

He said that Tesla would build its manufacturing capabilities “in parallel while we’re focusing on the product that is our largest-volume product, which is the PB 980. We will do everything we can to help them.”

There are good reasons for Tesla to build ventilators based on an established design rather than trying to design a ventilator from scratch. Ventilators are complex machines. Because patient lives depend on them, high reliability is essential. And while the FDA has relaxed regulations for ventilator manufacturers, new designs would require FDA approval. That takes time—probably too much time given the rapid spread of the virus.

Other car companies looking to aid with ventilator production have also partnered with established industry players. GM is working to support ventilator-maker Ventec, using its vast network of suppliers to help Ventec obtain parts that are in short supply. Ford is planning to help GE Health expand its ventilator output.

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