Tesla CEO Elon Musk says the electric vehicle maker is working on a plan to make ventilators during the coronavirus outbreak – and state Assemblyman Sean Ryan wants the company to do it at its temporarily shuttered solar panel factory.
Tesla’s factory in Buffalo would be an ideal location to ramp up ventilator production," said Ryan, D-Buffalo.
"New York State is the most impacted state in the nation," Ryan said. "It makes sense that increased ventilator production would happen here to ensure we can meet the growing demand of our health care system."
Gov. Andrew M. 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.
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.
"We are grateful for the discussion with Elon Musk and Tesla as we work across industries to solve problems and get patients and hospitals the tools they need to continue saving lives," Medtronic said. "We're all in this together."
Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak has said the company is working to double its production capacity for ventilators.
Ford Motor Co. and General Motors both have said they are working with ventilator manufacturers on ways to increase production.
Tesla closed its Buffalo solar panel factory after Cuomo issued his order Friday for all workers in nonessential businesses to stay home.
Before that, Tesla had said its workforce in Buffalo had topped 1,500 people, exceeding the requirement that it employ 1,460 people by April as part of its agreement with the state, which spent more than $950 million to build and equip the South Park Avenue factory.
The temporary shutdown won't trigger the $41.2 million penalty Tesla could have faced for missing its employment target. With the state-mandated shutdown, it's uncertain when the factory will reopen. But Tesla's contract with the state includes a clause that would allow it to miss the target due to unforeseen circumstances, like the coronavirus outbreak.
Musk also tweeted on Tuesday that he had helped acquire 1,255 ventilators from China last week and had arranged for them to be flown to Los Angeles. Musk said he expected to be able to distribute the ventilators this week.
"Getting them delivered, installed & operating is the harder part," he tweeted.
Musk has been openly skeptical about the severity of the coronavirus outbreak, including questioning whether there will be a ventilator shortage. He also has called the panic over the outbreak "dumb." The company last week squabbled with California officials over closing its Fremont, Calif., auto plant after the state issued a shelter in place order, before ultimately agreeing to shut down.