Tesla's Gigafactory grows rapidly in size - but what does that mean for EV's?

Author: Claire   

A recent report revealed that Tesla obtained permits for over $60 million in construction projects at the Gigafactory. This means the big battery production factory will expand to meet the company's aim to finish the construction project by 2020, as well as to start battery cell production in 2017. 

When talking about breaking boundaries and making dreams come true, Tesla honcho Elon Musk in not shy about providing details. The Silicon Valley big shot is making the world's most desirable electric cars. He's also running a space exploration company that has successfully launched satellite into space, and putting forward the revolutionary "Hyperloop" idea, which probably will become reality in the near future. Now, in terms of his maverick Gigafactory, what does he wish to achieve?

The "Tesla Gigafactory" is a concept for a massive battery factory that can produce the equivalent of the entire current world's production of lithium-ion batteries, which is about 105 GWh of capacity. The number still sounds vague. T clarify, that means batteries sufficient for 500,000 electric cars per year. Tesla plans to eventually build several of these giant factories, but the first one - called "Gigafactory 1"- is now under construction in Sparks, Nevada. It features a planned size of 15,000,000 square feet. 

By building the giant factory, Elon Musk wants to reduce the production cost of lithium-ion battery by at least 30%. Mass-production could lower the price from $190 per kWh in April 2016 to an estimated $130 per kWh once it's complete.  Also, a reduction in waste and supply chain efficiency would be another benefit. 

Currently, the Gigafactory is already producing the Powerpack 2. The new Powerwall 2 should start coming off the assembly line in the next few weeks for the first deliveries and installations in December-January, according to electrek. 

However, one big shortcoming of electric vehicles are their short range. For most EVs, they totally rely on battery to power the engine. What the battery can provide is very limited, and the lack of charging stations stands as another obstacle. Although the federal government has announced big plans to expand the charging grid in 48 states, to finish that process is a long-term goal. And that's why many traditional automakers would not abandon gas-powered cars, but only add in hybrids or EV's just to grab a slice of the new market. 

Elon Musk claims "[He] needs 100 Gigafactories for transition to renewable energy". Will batteries survive in EV production? Will another form of power storage replace batteries in the long run? That's what researchers need to dig into in the years to come. Another side issue is the availability of Lithium. But that is another story for another day.

Claire Peng has over 6 years of professional experience in the media industry, covering TV, newspaper and online media. She was once a reporter and producer for Fairchild Television based in Toronto Canada, and worked as an English news reporter for the Global Times in Beijing. She writes mainly about self-driving, companies investment, and the enterprise lab.
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