Tesla Builds $5 Billion "Gigafactory" In Nevada
Elon Musk pulls no punches when it comes to laying out his grand vision. In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Musk said his ambition was to fundamentally change how the world consumes energy on a “terawatt scale,” adding, “the goal is complete transformation of the entire energy infrastructure of the world.” To do that, he’s gonna need a factory – a really, really big factory.
Built in Storey County, Nevada, and appropriately located near the city of Sparks, that world-changing factory is now under construction, with Tesla first breaking ground in June of last year. The company currently owns a mammoth plot of land, initially buying up 1,000 acres, followed by another 1,200 and 350 acres after that, making for more than 24 million square-feet total.
So then, what’s all that space going to be used for? Dubbed the “Gigafactory,” the $5 billion installation will reportedly be the biggest battery factory in the world.
Powered by renewables such as solar and wind, Tesla has stated an eventual goal of reaching net-zero energy consumption. The factory has a target annual battery production capacity of 35 gigawatt-hours (a gigawatt-hour is equivalent to one billion watts per hour, or a million kWh). That huge volume will hopefully drive down costs and put a significant dent in prices for new EVs. Tesla says it expects to reduce the per kWh cost of each battery pack by more than 30 percent.
The batteries will also be used in Tesla’s partnership with SolarCity, another Elon Musk company, as a means to store excess electricity created by SolarCity’s solar panel systems.
It’s reported that the first construction phase of the Gigafactory is now nearing completion. Once done, Tesla will begin moving in the manufacturing equipment.
Cell production is expected to begin in 2017, reaching full capacity by 2020. At full steam, the factory will make more lithium-ions annually than were produced worldwide in 2013.
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Why it matters
What’s that? An American company making an American product on American soil with American workers, and it’s not weapons? How patriotic.
Putting all that to one side, this factory is essentially a tangible representation of Tesla’s (and Musk’s) lofty aspirations. First off, Tesla says it wants to produce 500,000 cars a year by the latter half of the decade. At half a million units annually, the company would essentially need the entire worldwide production of lithium-ion batteries to fill its needs. “The Tesla Gigafactory was born of necessity and will supply enough batteries to support our projected vehicle demand,” the company states on its website.
Apparently, Musk feels lithium-ion technology is ready for adoption on an even more massive scale, pushing EVs towards the realm of the commonplace and expanding applications when it comes to private use.
One of the major drawbacks facing the current EV market is cost, and if the Gigafactory can reduce the price of each lithium-ion by housing the entire manufacturing process in a single location, streamlining the process, reducing waste and simply making a LOT of batteries, then the next Tesla model you see could be much more accessible (say, around $35,000).
So then, where are we headed? Apparently, Musk feels lithium-ion technology is ready for adoption on an even more massive scale, pushing EVs towards the realm of the commonplace and expanding applications when it comes to private use. And while we all know the non-renewable ICE party won’t last forever, I can’t help but wonder if now is the time.
Here’s my problem – even with cheaper entry prices, there are still a few lingering issues with the EV, the most prominent being range and recharge times. Depending on where you live and the lifestyle you lead, EV transportation is simply not feasible for the majority of individuals out there. The commute is still real. And even with 468 Supercharger stations scattered around the country and many more on the way, you can’t really beat topping off your tank in just a minute or two. Basically, the EV can’t match the convenience and fuel availability you get with the ICE.
My guess is that Musk would counter this by saying that the technology is necessary given the world’s current state of energy consumption. And he could be right.
Either way, I’m excited to see what Tesla has is store for us. If I could make one request – how about a high-performance Roadster for $40,000?
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