Model S vs. ICE: How many moving parts?

Model S vs. ICE: How many moving parts?

Perhaps this has already been asked and answered, but can anyone list Model S's moving parts? We heard the total is around 20. When people ask us how our Model S compares to ICE cars, we will then be able to provide an accurate description/location of moving parts on this new, clean-sheet-of-paper design.

jordanrichard | 28 December 2013

How detailed do you want it? Do wheels count? The "engine", which is really a motor is the only real moving part. If the car has the air suspension then there is an air pump in front, there is a coolant pump for the battery pack, a steering rack like any other car.

Show them a picture of the car without the body (the skateboard), and that should answer all their questions.

danej | 28 December 2013

There are cooling system pumps and fans for the battery & inverter. The HVAC system also has a few moving parts, fans and compressors and such. Twenty does sound like a reasonable number of moving parts for this car.

Here's one source that says a typical ICE car has ten thousand (!!!) moving parts. Wow, that's a lot. Release also touches on the sanctity of dealerships, from the era when the threat was direct sales over the Internet of autos of that time. It's since been deleted by NADA, but it's in the Internet Archive:


For the auto manufacturers to do anything other than rely on their franchised dealers to sell their product would jeopardize a distribution system that has served the public well. In fact, so well that it is now taken for granted. It is a competitive system, disciplined by market pressures. And there's nothing that any dealer can do to restrict these market forces.

Every state government, as well as the courts, recognizes the automobile as a "complex necessity of modern life." When you consider that a car has more than 10,000 moving parts and more computing power than the Apollo moon launch, it is easy to understand why the sale of such a complex machine requires regulation. Buying a car over the Internet is nothing like purchasing a CD or contact lens. | 28 December 2013

It all depends on what you count. Does each button count as a moving part? How about windows and door handles? There are a lot of moving parts in every car. Each electric window likely has at least 20 moving parts. Do you count each ball bearing in a bearing (each are a moving part). It gets complicated really fast.

Now assuming the motor bearings are sleeve type (I don't know), then the Tesla motor has one moving part. A V8 ICE engine likely has 200+ moving parts, not counting all the attachments such as the water pumps, AC compressor, oil and fuel pumps, etc. Also many of the ICE parts are in a very stressful environment (explosions, high-heat, etc.).

danej | 28 December 2013

In regards to buttons and switches, no, those don't generally count. Bearings of course would, as would motors in a window, the window itself which moves in the track, etc.

From WikiPedia:

The moving parts of a machine are those parts of it that move. Machines include both moving (or movable) and fixed parts. The moving parts have controlled and constrained motions.[1][2]

Moving parts do not include any moving fluids, such as fuel, coolant or hydraulic fluid.[citation needed] Moving parts also do not include any mechanical locks, switches, nuts and bolts, screw caps for bottles etc. A system with no moving parts is described as "solid state".

For the purposes of discussion of the point which the original poster made, clearly the Tesla Motors cars are far, far simpler than their legacy ancestors. No air intake system, no exhaust system, no fuel pumps and filters, and none of the hundreds of moving parts that are embodied in a modern engine. This is a key reason Tesla and future EVs like it will win in the long run.


Mark E | 28 December 2013

There are hundreds of moving parts in an ICE driveline that aren't in the S, however there are still quite a few moving parts in the S. Suspension, gearbox (although simplified), driveshafts, assorted fans, pumps, window motors etc.

The S is still a very complex machine.

More appropriate is to think of the moving parts and consumables that are eliminated. No belts, air filters (other than AC ),spark plugs, coils, balance shafts, harmonic balancers, pistons, rings, camshafts, valves, lifters, valve springs, fuel pumps, injectors, pressure regulators, idle mixture regulators, throttle bodies, catalytic converters, mufflers, gudgeon pins, conrods, big & little end bearings, timing belts or chains, distributors, rotors, ignition leads, fuel filters, alternator, tensioners, clutch or torque converter, multi-speed transmissions - which contain hundreds more moving/wearing components, the list goes on.

To put this in perspective a typical four cylinder engine has two camshafts, a crank, 16 valves, 16 lifters - or buckets/shims, 16 valve springs, 16 valve guides, 12 or more piston rings, 8 main bearings, 8 big end bearings, 8 gudgeon pins, 4 pistons, 4 spark plugs, either 4 coils or a distributor which contains regular service parts (cap, rotor) and it's drive unit from the camshaft, sprockets or belt wheels, camchain or belt plus tensioner(s), 8 or more camshaft bearings, 4 injectors, 2 fuel pumps, 2 pressure regulators, plus more that I haven't thought of.

The S still has the cooling system & pumps etc, albeit simplified as there isn't so much waste heat. This does make the heating system in the S a bit *more* complex as you can't simply scavenge waste heat from the cooling system as in an ICE.

chrisdl | 28 December 2013

When I drive, everything on the car moves (or so i would hope).
The question becomes: how many parts does a Model S have vs an ICEV.

avanti | 28 December 2013

I can't imagine why door locks and mechanical switches wouldn't count as "moving parts" (other than an unattributed claim by a random anonymous author in Wikipedia). It is certainly true that the MS DRIVETRAIN has many fewer moving parts than that of an ICE vehicle which, all else being equal, is a good thing. This does not, however, mean that the MS is SIMPLER. Much of the complexity has simply been moved from hardware to software. If you include software, the MS is probably a LOT more complex. This is a mixed blessing. Software is a non-recurring engineering expense, and hardware isn't, so there is a definite potential for long-term cost savings. Also, as we all know, new software features can be and are "pushed" after delivery, often for free. OTOH, there is a lot of rope with which to hang oneself in a computer, and the engineering of stable software systems is far less mature than is the engineering of mechanisms. Getting out the "last bug" is notoriously difficult, and new features mean a constant influx of new bugs.

Although it is likely true that the physical simplicity of the MS will play out well in the long run, it is also true that ICE engineering is incredibly mature, a fact that is often overlooked, leading some Tesla owners to make exaggerated claims concerning the short-term cost-savings of EVs vs ICE vehicles. Modern ICE vehicles have dramatically lower maintenance costs than ever before, and they really don't break very often.

aviationfw | 28 December 2013

I would say that this would be a direct comparison between engine and drive train of ICE to Model S. i believe this is a simple non technical discussion between lay people. Based on that assumption the number does not hve to be exact and a ball park estimate should suffice. Taking into account the rotating motor and fixed coil and forgetting about the plumbing for cooling , Also considering direct drive to the wheels a ball park non technical figure would be less than 12 moving parts maybe as low as 4 or 5 not taking into consideration wheels and bearings. (This is purely a guess having looking at the showroom display, i do remember asking this question to the sales person with an answer in high single digits or low teens) . A more correct answer would be calling tesla and asking them or your local showroom.

aviationfw | 28 December 2013

Before I get shot down for a simplistic approach. I think most lay people are interested in the difference in the electric motor versus gas motor. Everything else door handles electric windows etc are mute as they are common to both ICE and MS. Hence the low number of parts engine to engine with out the plumbing, | 28 December 2013

I'd add in the transmission and drive/shaft. In an ICE the transmission has many moving parts, although I've not seen a number. In the Tesla there is one reduction gear. Might as well make the Tesla look even better!

Both have a differential, wheels, etc. so there's no reason to include them.

avanti | 28 December 2013

Well, if you are willing to pick and choose what to include and what to exclude, you can reach any conclusion that you like. If your goal is to make "gee whiz" claims about the MS, then just talk about the motor vs an engine.

If, OTOH, you want to say something meaningful, then either talk about the "drivetrain" or else the whole car. If you pick the former, then the MS will justifiably look good. If you pick the latter, the results won't be all that dramatic, since both have a great many moving parts.

EDH AL | 28 December 2013

@ avationfw +1

This topic has been discussed before so you might want to search via for additional info. In particular, see:

And I would agree with aviationfw: all cars in Tesla's class have power windows, air conditioning, sophisticated suspension systems, etc. For this reason, I think perhaps the most useful answer to "Tesla vs. ICE: how many moving parts?" is to simplify the answer in three parts: (1)limit the comparison to drivetrains (i.e. about 18 or 20 parts per Tesla and 10,000 parts to ICEs), (2) simply acknowledge certain ICE systems that include additional moving parts but have no relevance in an electric car (e.g., emission control systems, exhaust systems, and certain lubrication systems), and (3) simply note that your comparison excludes mechanisms common to both EVs and ICEs (e.g., power windows, door locks, sunroofs, windshield wipers, power seats, etc.. Just my opinion.

[OMG! when did Tesla add spell check?]

redacted | 28 December 2013


moot. Not mute. Please.

chrisdl | 28 December 2013

20 for an EV versus 10000 for an ICE? Oh please, come on people.
And now for a realistic estimate for the drivetrain.

How about 20 vs 200 or so? Still, what's the point?

About software: the modern ICE software is very likely more complex than the MS's drivetrain software. It being new doesn't make it more complicated. In fact, the simplicity on all levels is an advantage of the MS.

jordanrichard | 28 December 2013

Perhaps an easier way to explain it is take an ICE car, remove the engine and transmission/drive train and associated items like the gas tank and muffler. Now in place of all that, the only moving part is the electric motor.

aviationfw | 28 December 2013

I stand corrected.... Thank you.

Mute point and moot point is a commonly misunderstood phrase. Mute means to silence or quiet. Moot means impractical or irrelevant. A moot point means that the issue isn't up for debate and is irrelevant as the outcome has already been determined. There is no phrase of mute point. The correct terminology is moot point.

Brian H | 29 December 2013

For even more interesting "moot" details, look at the history or derivation. From AS tribal meetings, deferring a decision to a meeting of the "moot", or gathering of elders. "The term derives from Anglo-Saxon times, when a moot (gmot or emot) was a gathering of prominent men in a locality to discuss matters of local importance."

alcassfast | 29 December 2013

I read somewhere that one ICE car takes 40,000 gallons of water to produce.

dkelly | 30 December 2013

I think "all the parts are moving." Isn't that the whole point of having an automobile, that it move from one place to another with me inside? :-)

JZ13 | 30 December 2013

The product specialist who "sold" me my car told me Model S has 1,000 fewer moving parts than an ICE.

aaronw2 | 30 December 2013

I was told by a specialist that there's only around a dozen moving parts in the drive train. The other nice thing is that there's no real friction points other than the bearings. In an ICE there's piston rings, cams, etc where you have pieces rubbing together. An induction motor has none of those things.

jdnguyen | 30 December 2013

Hi all,

The sales rep in the new open shop in Mission Viejo mall told me that there are only 16 moving parts in Tesla S, but I didn't ask for any details.


zero2hide | 16 January 2014

This topic has come into sharper focus with my wife who now understands all the complexity of an ICE after her Tiguan engine was pulled apart with an allegedly sticking inlet valve. Maybe component count could be a more realistic way of comparison?

Regardless, to answer one posters point, it does matter because friction of hundreds of parts is the issue that an ICE cannot effectively reduce and failure of parts is inevitable at 80K miles or $200K miles. The Model S's long term reliability may hinge on its total component count, of which any number of those could fail in its expected lifetime.

sbeggs | 22 June 2014

17 moving parts not counting those that Model S has in common with ICE cars, according to the Tesla Topanga California team!

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | 22 June 2014

How about ware points. Where ever something moving is interfaced by another surface. Ball bearings are very effective and long waring, bushings are less effective, gears depend greatly on design. I think breakdowns are directly proportional to the design of ware points. Ice cars have huge numbers of bushing like ware points. Years of evolution have improved their durability but still a weak point. Add combustion heat to the issue and it is no surprise failure is inevitable.

After subtracting the moving parts that exist in all cars with the same features as Tesla sbeggs indicates the Tesla official number is 17 moving parts. I believe almost all of these ware points are ball bearings, only the reduction gear box has gear interfaces. It won't take much more seasoning of the drive train configuration to make it nearly bullet proof.

Right now I believe most the Tesla failures will be eliminated with design improvements and software seasoning simply because there is so few ware points to improve on. When the coat hangers and hand holds etc. become the most important improvements left we have made it!

Iowa92x | 22 June 2014

Parts do not need to move to wear out. Batteries, for example.

Red Sage ca us | 22 June 2014

The battery packs will last just fine. 12,000 to 15,000 miles per year, for 18 years comes to 216,000 to 270,000 miles. Try that with an air filter, spark plug, oil filter, water pump, head gasket, or any of a zillion other parts on an ICE that are designed to be replaced on a regular basis.

This is a matter of relative durability. The weakest points of any vehicle, regardless of its power source, remain the wear points between moving parts that vibrate, oscillate, revolve, or rotate as well as those points that prevent the loss of vital fluids used to facilitate cooling of components. There are more of those weak points on an ICE than an EV -- by design -- not just by default.

renwo S alset | 22 June 2014

My experience has been the more complex they become, the more they break. Every moving part has a break point and complexity only adds more to the list. Every one of the "options" people keep asking for, electronic or mechanical, only adds another thing to go wrong.

sule | 22 June 2014

A simple answer for a simple definition: All parts of Model S move when you push the "go pedal". Nothing is left behind, unlike with ICE cars which leave exhaust and, sometimes oil.

jjs | 22 June 2014

+1 sule Cute!

Brian H | 23 June 2014

wear points. Look up "ware", and you will find no adjective uses in modern English.

NKYTA | 23 June 2014

BrianH, but plenty-o-scifi refs: hard-ware, soft-ware, firm-ware, mal-ware: or just "ware" if you've read Gibson. ;-)

Brian H | 25 June 2014

Now look up "adjective".

sbeggs | 17 July 2014

I tend to believe Michael from Tesla Topanga Gallery, one of Tesla's first employees hired. When he spoke about 17 moving parts, I believe it was drivetrain parts compared to ICE drivetrain parts, excluding parts that both types of car have in common.

Bighorn | 17 July 2014

Didn't you mean adjectival uses? Adjective is a noun. I know it's confusing.

sbeggs | 17 July 2014

I'd be very wary of those uses...,,!

Mullion | 17 July 2014

Grammar Fiends, please see this:

Red Sage ca us | 17 July 2014

Tootsie Roll Tootsie-Pop...

chrisdl | 18 July 2014

Ha! Good catch! Eat that, Brian! ;-)

My recommendation would be to rephrase the sentence, though:
Look up "ware", and you will find that it's not used as an adjective in modern English.

NKYTA | 18 July 2014

@Bighorn, thou speak'st wiser than thou art ware of.

But then I'm archaic.

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | 18 July 2014

Yup, should be wear points!

just an allusion | 18 July 2014


When it comes to the actual power plant, just one(1).

Brian H | 21 July 2014

Good observation about the wear point in the power plant. Ware is it? ;p