12V Reacts to Tesla’s 48V Plans

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Tesla Cybertruck: What 12 volters should know.

Tesla announced it will switch to 48 volts for the low voltage system in its electric vehicles, during its recent 2023 Investor Day.

The first vehicle to move to the new system will be the Cybertruck due to start production in the middle of this year, to be followed by other future vehicles.  There was no mention of converting current models to 48 volts in a video of Tesla’s presentation posted by InsideEVs.

A presenter at Tesla said during the conference, “One of the changes we’re looking to make is in something that’s been steady for the last 60 years…12 volt.  The demand for power has been increasing to the point we need to have pretty heavy wires to drive over 200 amps of current around the car.  With Cybertruck and all future platforms, we’ll be moving to 48 volts. This reduces the current needed by a factor of four…resulting in a 16X reduction in lost power while distributing energy around the car,” he said. (See the video here.)

The spokesman continued, “It allows for smaller wires, smaller eFuses and smaller controllers. It also allows us to make those heat sinks smaller or, in many cases, remove them completely; all benefiting the car in terms of mass and weight.”

As a message to other car makers, he added, “48 volt is the future for low voltage design at Tesla, and likely for the industry in due course.  We welcome and encourage other OEMs and the entire supplier ecosystem to join us in this evolution.”

The reaction among 12 volt industry members was relatively calm.  Step down converters, which allow 12 volt products to work in higher voltage systems, are already in use by some dealers for installing audio in golf carts or heavy machinery.

Step down converters on Amazon run from about $30 to $130.

Chris McNulty, Director of Technical Support for Elettromedia said, “On our side, I don’t know that it’s going to be as huge a problem as some people are thinking….The original Hummer had a 24 volt system. The solution is a step down transformer. Just one additional piece you have to add and then run all your 12 volt stuff to that additional device.  So for us, it’s a relatively quick solution,” he said.

McNulty added, “The biggest deal is getting the shops to understand it’s not a big deal.  It’s just another part they will need to make it possible.”

A leading supplier who did not want to be named said, “This will only be a problem for the shops that don’t yet understand the use of converters but most shops will have experience with this. The converters do exist and are used in 48 volt golf carts.”

Pete Muller of Tint World Orlando, FL, whose shop works on electric vehicles of all types said he believes the aftermarket will keep up with the changes. “I don’t think it will impact our business. I think we’ll figure out solutions. That’s what aftermarket car audio does. ”

Kevin Doyle of DD Audio added, “Most of the electric vehicles are going to have two systems.  One to drive the motors and one that works all the interior lights, exterior lights, and gauges. And Tesla is going to go to a higher voltage system. By doing that, it can have efficiencies through smaller wires.  It makes a lot of sense.  48 volt will be their secondary system and what drives all the motors will be higher voltage.”

He’s concerned that OEMs will go to closed systems in the future that don’t allow aftermarket companies to tap into the battery.  But he said, “As long as there are speakers in the vehicle, there will be a way to upgrade.”

It should be noted that Tesla announcements on new technology do not always materialize as stated or on the time table announced. Some suppliers remained skeptical that Tesla could make the switch to 48 volts quickly.

The Tesla Cybertruck is expected to cost $50 – $70K, depending on the number of motors (one to three). By the way, the truck is expected to have the largest display of all Teslas at 18.5 inches.

Aftermarket suppliers are investigating offering 48 volt amplifiers, but these won’t be financially doable until there’s a broad adoption by car makers of the higher voltage systems, and a standard that specifies 48 volts as the preferred accessory battery.

For additional information, see InsideEVs story here.

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6 Comments

  1. This would take some time to source and develop. How many 48 volt light bulbs/ Radar sensors/cameras/seat motors/monitors/ LCDs/horns out there on the market?

  2. I wouldn’t worry about it. If Tesla announced it today it won’t be for another 5 years with a yearly announcement like everything else. And no Scott…you won’t be wrong.
    Tesla makes even Apple look like an open format when it comes to third party.

  3. Comparing the use of 48v converters in an original Hummer and golf carts to a Tesla is silly. Pretty sure a 48v Tesla won’t be friendly with anything that puts an additional load on it system. By the way, I hope I’m wrong…

  4. Safety will be an issue. Efficiency is fine and all. But 40+VDC is a death sentence. Anyone who messed with a 12v battery and got shocked with 12VDC due to a stray wire that pierced the skin will tell you that is hurt’s like hell. 40+VDC will kill you. I rather be inefficient and alive. Call me old fashioned.

      1. Neither will 110AC, usually, sometimes. Mike is correct that in certain circumstances you can feel 12v.. and multiply that by 4 I’d be concerned before I learned the ins and outs of a 48v system. I’d assume you will feel it just touching them, without the need for pierced skin or damp conditions. Whether it’ll be a tingle or an actual pain, I don’t know, I don’t have the experience to say. I’d be somewhat weary at first, though.

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