A while back, I made a silly chart of all of the alphabetically-extrapolated upcoming Tesla models, and I got a response from Matt Brown, a Senior Design Engineer over at Tesla. I sent him a big PDF of the chart to prank his co-workers, and I was absolutely pleased that Tesla seemed to employ such cool engineers.
I didn't know the half of it.
See, Matt has also designed and built a beer dispenser that works by using a prototype Tesla Model S door handle. This is easily one of the sleekest, best-uselessness-to-cool ratio Car Hacks I've ever seen.
In his email telling me about this, Matt said he rescued one of the prototype door handles from the trash. I'd kill to have access to trash like that. He's like a Jawa or something. He also boasted that "80% of the time, it works every time." Impressive.
Here's more detail, right from our master beer-dispensing engineer:
The closures team was tossing out a few old prototype door handles, and I asked if I could have one for a personal project. They assumed I was going to put it on my '64 Honda project car. I was thinking about modifying the metal part of the handle to replace the tap handle on the kegerator, but since I had the entire mechanism, I wanted to do something that used it.
I hogged out the insulation in the back of the kegerator door and then carefully cut a hole in the front that was slightly bigger than the handle. I clamped the handle mechanism in and filled the void with expanding foam to both hold the handle in and insulate the door.
The mechanism is controlled by an Arduino; I had to wire up and code new controls because the existing electronics networked with other controllers on the car to determine when it could and couldn't activate. I used an infrared proximity sensor below the spout to present the handle automatically. The dispensing is activated with a linear solenoid hooked up to the spout with a simple pushrod I fabbed up from an old brake line. I tried using a fluid solenoid in the beer line, but it created too much head in the beer. I thought about using a globe valve with a wiper motor or something, but I kind of like the handle mechanism.
I put an extra switch in and coded in some timeouts. I'm always afraid I'm going to come home to a flooded apartment, and a Model S door handle hiding like a dog that just peed 14 gallons of beer on the carpet.
A few thoughs: first, 64 Honda project? That needs following up on. And second, it's about time someone freed us from the tyranny of pulling a beer tap handle. What are we, animals?
Matt was nice enough to include some build pics and diagrams, which are very handy to see the range of inputs the door handle can receive: pulling, motion sensing, and it looks like it will also latch/unlatch the actual beer dispensing fridge.
Amazing work. Matt also has a book about his Formula SAE experience that looks pretty great. We'll keep you updated on all the cool things Tesla engineers fish out of the trash.