When Josh McDonald, owner of Nevada Tailwheel, flew over the Tesla Gigafactory at the request of the folks at Teslarati last week, his photos showed more than just an enormous party tent going in preparation for the grand unveiling ceremony scheduled for July 29.
At both ends of the existing building, footings and pylons for new sections were also in evidence. They are shown outlined in red in the photo above. The existing structure is 4 stories high and contains almost 2 million square feet of manufacturing space. But that is less than one sixth as large as the Gigafactory will be when it is fully compete 3 to 5 years from now.
The pace of construction is increasing, with workers in two shifts now on site 7 days a week. Why the rush? “We have to be ready with cell and pack production well ahead of vehicle production,” said JB Straubel, Tesla’s chief technical officer and co-founder, during a walk-through of the factory. “We’re accelerating our construction plans and accelerating our planned ramp up of cell production.”
For its part, Panasonic, which is Tesla’s major partner in the project, is racing to keep up with Elon Musk, who announced last month that he is moving the production date for the Model 3 forward a full 12 months and the time when he wants to be selling 500,000 cars a year by two years. “We are running around like crazy hiring people.” says a Panasonic spokesperson.
One of the expected benefits of the Gigafactory is a dramatic decrease in the cost of batteries. “If you look at where batteries are being made, it’s almost all in Asia,” Mr. Straubel said. “That was one of the big opportunities we have here, is to close the logistics loop from where cells are made and materials are made and move it closer to where our vehicles are made.”
Sam Jaffe, a principal with Cairn Energy Research Advisors, is not so sure. “What they won’t be able to do from a battery manufacturing perspective is make the cells as cheaply as they hoped. A lot of the price reductions from the gigafactory model come from the supply chain re-creation that they will be doing in North America. That won’t be ready by 2018.”
One of the expected benefits for those attending the grand opening party for the Gigafactory is a chance to see and drive actual prototypes of the Model 3 on a test track Tesla has laid out near nearby. It is anticipated the Model 3 will offer a higher level of autonomous driving than is currently available in any car from any other manufacturer.
Source: Wall Street Journal Photo credit: Teslarati via Josh McDonald