Tesla's temporarily shuttered solar panel factory in Buffalo could become part of the nationwide scramble to produce more ventilators.
The company's Buffalo factory "will reopen for ventilator production as soon as humanly possible," company CEO Elon Musk tweeted Wednesday. "We will do anything in our power to help the citizens of New York."
Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, who wrote to Musk earlier this week asking the company to consider making ventilators in Buffalo, said Tesla's efforts at the Riverbend factory would not center around the production of complete ventilators, but rather components used in them that are in short supply for devices produced by Medtronic.
"They are guardedly optimistic they can produce some of the parts that Medtronic is having a hard time sourcing," Ryan said.
Tesla suspended production at its RiverBend factory after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued his order Friday for all workers in nonessential businesses to stay home.
Tesla officials could not be reached to comment.
Giga New York will reopen for ventilator production as soon as humanly possible. We will do anything in our power to help the citizens of New York.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 25, 2020
Musk said in a tweet on Saturday that he had a good talk with medical device maker Medtronic about ventilators – a breathing apparatus that could be in acutely short supply as the coronavirus outbreak spreads and affects more patients.
Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak said on CNBC Wednesday that the medical device maker has already started working with Tesla.
"One of our ventilators will be made by them and they're on track to try to make that," Ishrak said.
Ryan said Tesla's efforts in Buffalo would involve trying to figure out how to make the components that are in short supply and then how to use the plant's equipment to do it.
"It all depends if they can crack this," Ryan said.
Ishrak has said his company is working to double its production capacity for ventilators to deal with what health and political officials have warned could be a catastrophic shortage of the devices as the outbreak spreads.
Cuomo has said New York has access to about 6,000 ventilators, but it could need as many as 18,000 to 37,000 of the devices as the outbreak spreads.