Tesla opens Gigafactory to the media

A computer rendering of the completed Gigafactory. Image courtesy of Tesla
A computer rendering of the completed Gigafactory. Image courtesy of Tesla

Electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors has shown off its so-called ‘Gigafactory’ to the media for the first time.

The Gigafactory is Tesla’s attempt to scale up its production of lithium-ion battery packs for electric vehicles, and in doing so, bring down the overall cost of the cars.

Speaking to journalists at this press event, Tesla CEO Elon Musk outlined the primary aim of the Gigafactory.

“This is about making enough cells and batteries to make hundreds of thousands, ultimately millions of electric cars, and to do so at scale,” said Musk.

In order to achieve this, Tesla decided on an unconventional mindset when it came to factory design.

“We had to design the factory as a machine. You really need to look at a factory like it’s a product – like it’s a giant machine that builds the machine. And it deserves more innovation and more engineering skill than the product itself,” Elon Musk explained.

The primary innovation behind the Gigafactory, as alluded to by its name, is its incredibly large size.

Already the portion of the factory that is up and running measures in a massive 1.9 million sq. ft (176,516sq. m.), however even this will only comprise just 14% of the entire planned area.

When it reaches its final size, the Gigafactory will be the largest building in the world by footprint, and the second largest in the world by volume.

Another innovation Tesla highlighted was the planned efficiency of the building itself, something achieved through the use of advanced computer modeling of the factory and localized sourcing of raw material.

As well, the Gigafactory makes heavy use of automation, both in assembly line robots, and in small autonomous wheeled robots, able to carry goods around the factory floor.

By 2018 Tesla hopes to be able to produce batteries for at least 500,000 vehicles annually, however when running at full capacity, they claim the Gigafactory will be able to produce batteries for 1,500,000 cars annually.

“This one factory will produce as much [lithium-ion batteries] as the rest of the world combined,” said Musk.

Tesla says it has significantly accelerated its plans vis-à-vis the Gigafactory in order to make good on its promise to deliver Model 3 vehicles for all who pre-ordered them in a timely manner.