Inside Tesla’s ginormous Gigafactory

Posted at 8:17 AM, Jul 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-27 08:17:26-04

Out in the desert, just off Electric Avenue in Sparks, Nevada, over 1,000 workers are building what will be the largest building in the world in terms of its footprint over the ground.

This is the Gigafactory, where Tesla plans to build enough lithium ion batteries to catapult Tesla’s electric vehicles into the mainstream.

It will be about 5.8 million square feet when completed around 2020.

Tesla believes that the adoption of electric vehicles has been hampered by the high cost of lithium batteries, so it plans to use this factory to drastically boost production.

The factory currently has almost 2 million square feet of space on several floors — and the structure is only 14% complete.

By 2020, Tesla hopes to be producing more batteries at this one factory than were produced in the entire world in 2014. With that flood of batteries, Tesla says it can drive down their cost by over 30%.

For now, Tesla is only assembling battery packs for its home and industrial energy storage products at this factory.

The batteries themselves are not being made here yet. Workers are assembling batteries made in Japan into battery packs that then go into Tesla’s Powerwall and Powerpack products.

By the end of this year Tesla plans to have its battery partner, Panasonic, making the actual battery cells here. Panasonic and Tesla will each operate parts of the facility which will exist as a single huge building. Panasonic will make battery cells, and Tesla will assemble those cells into battery packs.

It’s Tesla’s building, though. Tesla is even building it itself rather than hiring an outside contractor.

The plant is strategically located about five hours from Tesla’s Fremont, California, factory. That’s where the car batteries will be fitted into Tesla’s new Model 3 sedans. The lower cost batteries produced here will be crucial for keeping the Model 3’s price down to a relatively affordable $35,000 base price. Tesla hopes to make enough cells here to build 500,000 of the cars a year.