It has become apparent that the healthcare system has been struggling to keep up with the growing crisis that is COVID-19.
Unfortunately, this means that critical supplies such as face shields, ventilators and face masks have come under massive shortages over the months. The good news is that the automotive industry — armed with decades of engineering expertise and top-grade manufacturing facilities — have stepped in to not only help but also offer ingenious propositions to present-day problems.
Tesla and Ford, for example, have created ventilators out of parts they already have, while Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus has fashioned masks — now a precious commodity — using scuba tools. Aston Martin’s prestigious Heritage Works division has even opened its doors to healthcare workers whose vehicles are in need of emergency repair.
Read on to find out what else the car industry is doing to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jaguar Land Rover deploys new Land Rover Defenders
It looks like the 2020 Land Rover Defender will finally become the workhorse it was always designed to be. Jaguar Land Rover has announced that it would collectively deploy 312 vehicles globally to support emergency response organisations. Of these, 27 brand new Defenders will be given to the British Red Cross to deliver medicine and food to vulnerable people across the UK, with more arriving onto the shores of other European cities, South Africa, and Australia soon.
This global support is bolstered by the manufacturer’s production of NHS-approved protective visors, the offering of research and engineering expertise, and its 3D printing models and prototypes. Elsewhere, Jaguars have also been deployed to the charity StreetGames to support vulnerable young people at risk from hunger, isolation, and inactivity.
Lamborghini’s upholstery and customisation team chips in
Over in Italy, Lamborghini is also ramping up efforts to aid the healthcare system. Parts of its factory will be converted to build surgical masks and protective plexiglass shields, all of which will be put to good use at the Sant’Orsola-Malpighi Hospital in Bologna.
Helmed by the team in charge of interiors and special customisation options for its road cars, the initiative will see some 1,000 masks being produced every day. 200 3D-printed medical shields will also be made within the firm’s carbon fibre production facilities. As a sign of unity, Lamborghini also lights up its historic headquarter buildings in Sant’Agata Bolognese with the colours of the Italian flag every evening.
Porsche auctions a rare 911 for charity
Porsche launched the new 992 generation of the 911 to plenty of fanfare last year, but the spirit of the 991 still lives on today. The very last ones the firm made, as it turns out, are Speedsters — the most sought-after 911 body type — and one of exclusive 1,948 examples will be auctioned to benefit the United Way Worldwide COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund.
Like the others, this stunning ride will come with a 911 Speedster Heritage Design Chronograph watch which is matched to its chassis number. In line with social distancing guidelines, this auction will take place on RM Sotheby’s online-only platform, and bidding will be opened from 11am EDT on 15 April to 1pm EDT on 22 April.
Formula 1 kickstarts ‘Project Pitlane’
They might be used to life on the fast lane, but a collective of seven UK-based Formula 1 teams will be pooling their engineering expertise to support the nation’s dire need for respiratory devices.
All teams are currently working on producing more than 20,000 ventilators and aids, with Mercedes-AMG Petronas heading the cause to repurpose its Brixworth engine facility for the production of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) breathing aids. These will be used on COVID-19 patients with serious lung infections in place of ‘invasive mechanical ventilation’ breathing devices, which involve tubes through the skin or mouth.
Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus rethinks the scuba mask
Cameron Glickenhaus isn’t stranger to innovation, and so besides donating his Connecticut factory space to serve as a hospital, the exotic high-performance car builder has also teamed up with medical teams to come up with an injection-folded universal adapter for full-face snorkel masks, turning them into makeshift N95s of sorts.
The American firm has since released a simple video demonstrating the mask’s simple construction, but also plans to make the engineering behind the adapter open-source for anyone to access.
Aston Martin keeps medical staff mobile
The Aston Martin Heritage Works division in the UK might have suspended most of its work due to the ongoing crisis, but the company still wants to do its part. Instead of creating face masks and ventilators, it’s tackled a problem few have: Emergency repairs.
Now that local garages have closed, the hallowed space — once used for servicing and restoring classic and highly-collectable Astons — will now be a workshop that carries out repairs for free. This service is extended to any locally-based healthcare worker regardless of the brand of car in question, in hopes of keeping them mobile as they fight to save lives.
Ford makes life-saving equipment and promotes reading
Ford Motors has been at the forefront of the coronavirus pandemic since it ravaged the US earlier this year, and besides making face shields, masks, and ventilators, will also start developing a battery-powered respirator using technology from its F-150 pickup truck. It’s also begun making reusable medical gowns from materials normally used for its vehicles’ airbags and has partnered with Thermo Fisher Scientific develop a COVID-19 test kit.
Ford Fund’s “Read and Record” virtual volunteering project also ensures children all over the world still have access to learning and books. Multilingual Ford employees globally are encouraged to record and submit videos of them reading a children’s book in their native language, and the online library will be shared with philanthropic groups that serve children and families across the globe.
Tesla creates ventilator prototype with electric car parts
Of course Elon Musk was going to get a piece of the COVID-19 action here. Besides using SpaceX fabricating components for Medtronic ventilators, the firm’s engineers have also designed a prototype ventilator that uses parts adapted from electric vehicles.
Instead of using highly specialised components that are currently in shortage by medical device manufacturers, the carmaker will use in-house automotive parts, such as the digital screen from its Model 3, to create these devices.