The Tesla Gigafactory 1 was supposed to be opened in 2017, but Elon Musk somehow managed to make the factory fully operational in the first quarter of 2016. Why is it so important and “eko-sciting”?
For starters, the last bits and pieces of the construction works were carried out by over 1,000 workers who had been working for 7 days a week on 2 shifts. And this is not an easy job, because the factory was built in Nevada (not in China), on a desert, on a plot of over 12 square kilometers, out of which roughly 2 square kilometers were meant to be taken by the factory building itself. The remaining space was consumed by solar panels, because the Gigafactory is meant to be self sustainable in terms of electricity (the electrical power required to manufacture batteries will come from solar, wind and geothermal sources).
What’s more, the location and shape of all the buildings were thought through that way, so to minimise changes in the local environment, and shape of the manufacturing facility was optimised to allow fast, effective and balanced production.
The Tesla Gigafactory – giga production, giga ambitions
As the second point, the Gigafactory is meant to achieve the peak of its abilities by 2020, which means that 6,500 of its employees will produce lithium-ion batteries for over half a million electrical models of Tesla, e.g. fairly cheap model 3 (over 400,000 orders were placed a few days after the premiere) and a spectacular because of its futuristic design Tesla X. All of those batteries will have the energy of 35 GWh. Is it a lot? It’s 35 billion Watts of power per hour – yes, definitely a lot. We have, however, some doubts and concerns…
The Nissan factory (recognised, experienced and with a lot of knowledge about motorisation manufacturer of cars) in british Sunderland needed 28 years, so that it could achieve the production output of 500,000 per year, and Elon Musk would like to achieve that in 4 years after opening of his factory, even while producing less than 50,000 of cars per year. Brave. “Eko-sciting”. Unbelievable?
As the third point, if everything goes well, the Gigafactory itself that is worth 5 billion US dollars will have a target to manufacture every year more lithium-ion batteries than it had been produced in the whole world in 2013, thanks to which the price is expected to go down by 30%. Lithium-ion batteries, which are popular, better from year to year and which power laptops, mobile phones and cars, are not the best solution, because they still take a lot of time to recharge and they discharge quite quickly. The better solution are lithium-air batteries (they are still in development), which supposed to have 15 times greater capacity for energy than lithium-ion ones. For now, they are too sensitive for heat (to give out the energy, they require air, but the hot air doesn’t serve them), but the work is in progress.
Last, but not least, the Gigafactory will be open for visitors, because as Elon puts it: “it’ll be worth seeing”.
What else will Elon Musk think to existence?
The second part of Tesla’s plan for the years to come has been announced recently. The first plan was put in place about a decade ago and it’s been carried out – the second model of an electric car (Tesla Roadster) was developed, which allowed the company to fund production of two slightly cheaper models – model X and model S, which in turn caused the company to mass manufacture the model 3. Beyond that, Tesla wanted to strengthen its position on the solar market (by taking over of the manufacturer of photovoltaic cells SolarCity) and taking hold of an accumulator market (you buy a Tesla accumulator and you mount it on a wall, and it collects energy from solar batteries and powers up the whole house, or, well, Tesla which is parked in a garage). And what is the next plan?
On roofs of Tesla’s cars there are supposed to be mounted solar panels (they will give the cars “eco-sciting” look and they will power on many on-board devices), and the cars are supposed to be more autonomic, and thanks to that 10 times more safe than cars driven by a human. Also, those autonomic cars are supposed to be linked to something Uber like, which means that the car owner can rent a car when he/she doesn’t need it, and earn some cash by the way. So, when I go to work with my shiny new Tesla, I leave it on a parking, and when someone needs it, the person calls it by using a smartphone and the Tesla on its own will drive to the place to pick someone up in need, and I have some extra cash because of this – how impressive!