Tesla engineers have made a prototype ventilator that largely uses car parts, the electric car company showed in a YouTube video Sunday.
The ventilator is controlled by the Tesla Model 3’s infotainment system computer, uses the Model 3’s touchscreen and controllers, and uses other car parts to perform oxygen and air mixing.
“We’ve been working on developing our own ventilator design that’s heavily based on Tesla car parts,” Joseph Mardall, Tesla’s engineering director, said in the video. “We want to use parts we know really well, we know the reliability of and we can make sure they’re available in volume.”
To be clear, the device is simply a prototype at this point, and would need to be tested, approved, and mass produced before it could be used in any real numbers on Covid-19 patients. In late March, the FDA said it would loosen regulations to allow companies to pursue “emergency use authorization” to allow them to distribute new ventilators to hospitals.
Still, experts and politicians all over the country have made clear how dire the need for ventilators is right now, and have implored companies to make as many of them as possible. There are many different types of ventilators; the ones that are most needed are called critical care ventilators. But other ventilators have been modified for longer-term use in Covid-19 patients, and doctors have also explored hooking multiple patients up to a single ventilator.
It’s too early to say whether Tesla will actually make ventilators that can be used by patients, and in any real numbers. But the company’s ability to make and source products within the United States (its factories are in Nevada and California), make it an ideal candidate to retrofit its factories to make ventilators, and so the fact that it’s currently working on making one is good news.
"There’s still a lot of work to do, but we’re giving it our best effort to make sure we can help some people out there," a Tesla engineer says in the video.