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The $5 Billion Tesla Gigafactory You’ll Have To See To Believe

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Tesla has elevated itself to one of the most iconic and recognizable brands on the face of the earth. Since CEO Elon Musk took control in 2007, Tesla has gone from the verge of bankruptcy, to the most valuable vehicle manufacturer in the world. With a stock price that has climbed nearly 700% this year, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and a market cap of nearly 400 billion dollars, the demand for the fully electric vehicles has never been higher.

In order to keep up with skyrocketing demand, Tesla has built the Gigafactory and today we will be taking a look inside. Currently able to produce just shy of 400 thousand vehicles per year, Tesla hopes to ramp up production and have the ability to turn that into roughly 20 million per year in the near future. But this drastic increase will require several new factories to be built around the world, and the Gigafactory located in Sparks, Nevada will serve as the foundation and model for future battery and vehicle production factories.

Currently, the Gigafactory is only about 30% built, but estimates show that upon completion it could be the worlds largest building. Tesla has stated that it simply cannot keep up with demand for its Model 3, and although it is open around the clock and employs over seven thousand employees who can produce 2 batteries per minute and roughly 5,000 per week for their vehicles, they have not been able to keep up the past two years. With such a high demand for their vehicles, Tesla along with their CEO Elon Musk understand the necessity of building more Gigafactory’s that are not only strategically located, but all equally energy efficient.

Tesla is already outpacing its competition in regards to cost efficiency, spending roughly 116 dollars per kilowatt hour per battery that is produced, while competitors average roughly 145 dollars using the same metric. Tesla is seeking to further slash that number down to an even 100 dollars by the end of 2021. What does that mean for the consumer? Tesla envisions a world where their vehicles will be an affordable option for all, and if they can continue to slash the cost of producing their batteries, their goal of achieving this reality will be that much more plausible.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Gigafactory is that human and robot work side by side to maximize efficiency. It became obvious early on that robots were able to move materials quicker and with a higher maximum load than the human employees. These robots are programmed with fixed map directions to allow them to navigate throughout the Gigafactory on a fixed path delivering materials to exactly where they need to go so that productivity is maximized.

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A building so large brings with it natural questions about energy efficiency. Tesla plans on using a combination of solar, wind, and geothermal sources to make it completely self-sufficient. Other plans to increase efficiency include using the heat generated from the equipment to heat other pieces of equipment and to heat the factory during the colder months. Eventually there will be over 200 thousand solar panels stretched across 1.8 million square feet of the factory, and the position of the factory in the desert ensures that the factory will be supplied with plenty of solar energy year round. A serious goal of Tesla is to have a 0 emission facility that is creating 0 emission products, a truly incredible goal that it appears Tesla is well on the way to achieving.

The Gigafactory has just been able to turn a profit for the first time in 2020 which means that investing companies, like Panasonic, who help provide the materials needed to produce the batteries for Tesla,

are finally seeing a return on investment. Back when ground was broken for the factory in 2015, it was widely thought that the Gigafactory was a make-or-break, and that the success of the Model 3 was directly tied to the success of Tesla overall. With hundreds of thousands of orders for the Model 3 placed in 2015 a year before being able to send them out, Tesla was able to prove that their investment was well worth it early on.

Multiple states competed to compel Tesla to build the Gigafactory in their state to provide economic benefit and jobs including California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, before Tesla settled on their current Nevada location. Nevada became the most attractive option for a number of reasons, including air humidity, tax incentives, and access to railways for shipping. Tesla even received the first 1,000 acres for the factory for free!

The Gigafactory has not been without controversy, of course. There have been allegations of drug smuggling and theft from various former employees, and there has been at least one allegation that cocaine and crystal-meth have been smuggled via the factory for Mexican drug cartels. An internal investigation into the crimes was allegedly suppressed by Tesla, who then fired the employee in charge of looking into the matters. In an even stranger twist of events, the former employee cooperated with an FBI investigation into the matter and claimed Tesla had been spying on him after his expulsion from the company. But alas, the investigation quietly ended with no wrongdoing firmly established against the tech giant.

Of course, to reach higher production capacity, numerous Gigafactory’s will need to be built around the globe, and that process has been underway for multiple years now. Elon Musk has stated his vision of there being over 100 Gigafactory’s, however that number is far from reality at the moment. Gigafactory Two is currently being built in Buffalo, York, while Gigafactory Three is being built in Shanghai, China. Both of these facilities will be using the blueprint created by the original Gigafactory to ensure that operations are as efficient and cost effective as possible. The location in Buffalo came with nearly one billion dollars of tax breaks and benefits for Tesla to move into the former SolarCity compound.

Gigafactory Four will be built just outside of Berlin, in Germany, in part to bring Tesla to the European Market in a significant way. Although the economic benefits of having the massive Tesla production facility in Berlin are numerous, there has been significant objections raised by Berliners to having Giga-Berlin built. Very recently Berliners blocked Google from building a campus in the city and there concerns revolve around Tesla’s projected water consumption, building methods, and how the presence of their facility will drive up housing prices. Still, construction on Giga-Berlin is well underway as Tesla has sought methods to adapt their building and operating practices to help stem the tide of opposition.

Gigafactory five is currently under construction in Austin, Texas and it is going to be massive, at roughly 5 million square feet. Although that facility is still in its infancy, Tesla is mulling offers from several contractors to figure out the best method to bring Gigafactory Five into the fold, and envisions it as a facility that will focus primarily on building their Cybertruck and Tesla’s version of a semi.

Other interesting things of note about the current Gigafactory in Nevada are that it is situated on over 3,000 acres of land, and keeping with its theme of preserving the earth and leaving no carbon footprint, everything the Gigafactory uses is reportedly recycled, so not only is the excess heat reused within the factory, but all used battery packs can be repurposed at the plant, as well. You would think that a plant as massive as this one would have decimated all wildlife around the property, but employees and

photographers alike have often seen wild horses roaming around the Gigafactory, really lending credibility to Tesla’s vision of sustainable energy and conservation efforts. As previously stated, Musk would love there to be over 100 Gigafactory’s worldwide, and that number is not random. Musk has calculated that if 100 Gigafactory’s were built and operational, they would collectively be able to produce enough energy to fully supply the world around the clock with a sustainable energy source. The biggest hold up, according to Musk, is that it would take several companies being on board with the project as well as significant support from governments across the globe to help this happen. Clearly Musk sees the Gigafactory as a blueprint to move us into the post-fossil fuel world, and it remains to be seen if other companies will climb aboard.

It is quite clear that Tesla continues to make moves within an industry that it is well on its way to dominating in the near future. With Gigafactory one paving the way for future Tesla factories to be built around the globe, Musk and Tesla’s vision of producing 20 million or more Tesla’s per year seems to be closer than it may seem to a reality. At this point it seems that the best question to ask is not if Tesla will become the most driven vehicle in the world, but when.

Summary:

Tesla has surged in popularity over the last five years and in order to keep up with skyrocketing demand, one of the largest facilities in the world has been built in the Nevada desert-the Gigafactory. At over 6 million square feet and covering over 3,000 acres, the Gigafactory employs over 7 thousand employees and churns out lithium-ion batteries around the clock. Perhaps most amazing is that Tesla is creating a 0 emission vehicle within a facility that is completely self-sufficient with energy and waste production, meaning 0 emission vehicles are being built in a 0 emission facility. As demand continues to increase, multiple Gigafactory’s are being built around the world as Tesla digs in its heels as the leader of the sustainable energy revolution.

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