Tesla’s Model 3 electric motor is a clever mystery box, says auto experts

Model 3 drivetrain.

Sandy Munro, a teardown specialist and auto industry veteran, is releasing the results of a study he conducted with battery expert Mark Ellis comparing the motors inside four electric vehicles, one of which was a Tesla Model 3. Despite analyzing the vehicle for a long time, the auto expert states that there are still mysteries that he is yet to uncover on the electric sedan.

“The Tesla has a lot of stuff hidden. The Tesla is a big mystery. It’s not obvious sometimes what clever things they’ve done, ” he commented about the California-based car maker’s motor in a recent interview summarized by Industry Week. “There’s mysteries every day. We thought we were clever, but we’re not that clever.”

One of the clever features Munro and Ellis discovered in their Model 3 teardown was the disconnect device for the high voltage. “It’s not really a fuse…It’s like a little explosion. If the car rolls over, they have a little disconnect that blows up, [cutting] all the power to everything and that way you don’t have an electric nightmare,” he revealed. Also, the inner magnets of the Model 3 motor were found to be under a lot of stress, which is not something other manufacturers have learned to do in high volume production. “We’ve talked to lots of magnet manufacturers, but this might be another one of these made-in-Tesla kind of deals. They make a lot of stuff in-house,” Munro guessed.

Sandy Munro holds up the Automatic Drive Module of the Tesla Model 3. [Credit: Autoline Network/YouTube]

Another innovation that impressed the teardown team was how advanced the inverter/convertor device was that provides power to the motor, particularly in the use of silicon carbide on the devices’ integrated circuits. “It creates a lot less heat and is a lot faster than the Chevy and BMW,” Ellis added to the discussion. “Silicon carbide is the latest and greatest and Tesla so far is the only vehicle out there with it.” Munro and Ellis further noted the high level of tech Tesla’s motor contained, all while being considerably smaller than the competition.

The study will be released in a few weeks and also includes detailed information about the motors inside the Chevy Bolt, BMW i3, and Jaguar I-Pace. Munro had very positive things to say about Tesla’s technology, but the electric vehicles produced by industry giants did not receive quite the same accolades. “It looks like the other guys just went around and glued together whatever they could find off the shelf,” Munro jabbed at Tesla’s competition.

The BMW i3 was hit particularly hard and cited as the heaviest, most expensive, and very inefficient overall. “It’s not designed for… I don’t know what it’s designed for, really,” Munro swiped in the interview. “While everything on Tesla is…very, very efficient engineering.” Munro still isn’t sold on the Model 3 body, though, and takes issue with the complexity of the process it takes to manufacture it thanks to the number of parts, materials, and fastenings involved.

Munro has a history of strong opinions on Tesla’s car intended for the mass market. After completing an initial teardown of a 2017 version of the vehicle, he infamously commented that the car’s panel gaps could be seen “from Mars” among other very critical remarks about the way the car was manufactured. Tesla eventually issued a statement in response to the criticisms, indicating that significant improvements had been made to its Model 3 manufacturing process which would render moot many of the issues identified.

Once the Model 3 teardown was complete, Munro later admitted to eating “a lot of crow” in response to the technology installed and implemented throughout the car. He praised the Model 3 battery pack and the way it handles on the road, in particular, and also estimated Tesla was turning a 30% profit on the vehicle. Munro ultimately concluded that everything from the car’s suspension and down was perfect, but everything about its bodywork was questionable.

While the study Sandy Munro and Mark Ellis have conducted has not yet been released, from the sounds of it, crow seems to have still been on the menu for Tesla’s inner workings while old criticisms still stand about its outer packaging.

Tesla’s Model 3 electric motor is a clever mystery box, says auto experts
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