Tesla, the world's foremost electric car company, is taking the renewable energy sector by storm. For decades, renewable energy has been scoffed at as a reliable means to power cars and homes because of excessive cost, lack of widespread availability, and distribution. Tesla already fought and beat this problem with the Tesla Models S and X -- relatively affordable ($60k+) consumer cars powered solely by electric motors and batteries. Throughout Tesla's adventures producing electric cars, a major issue they have encountered is the cost of lithium ion batteries. The Gigafactory is Tesla's gigantic solution.
Check out the Tesla Model S chassis pictured above. Tesla's cars are electric cars. This means that they are powered/moved by electric motors instead of internal combustion engines. Now, the electricity that powers Tesla's onboard electric motors has to come from somewhere. As we saw in last month's post, the Toyota Mirai is an electric car powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Tesla cars deliver electricity to their electric motors from onboard lithium-ion batteries stored in the chassis of the car. Note the gunmetal gray battery bays shown in the picture of the Model S chassis above.
So, to summarize that last paragraph -- Tesla cars are powered by lithium-ion batteries which store enough energy for Tesla cars to run for over 300 miles on a single charge. Tesla's current production capacity sits somewhere around 50,000 - 100,000 vehicles per year. Their stretch goal for 2018 is 500,000 vehicles per year. However, in order for Tesla to achieve these production figures, they would require the entire world's supply of lithium-ion batteries. Moreover, at current production levels, lithium-ion batteries are still pretty expensive for Tesla to obtain and include in their cars.
To recap, there aren't enough lithium-ion batteries in the world and those that are available are expensive. To combat this problem and pave the way for expanded production numbers, Tesla is building the Gigafactory -- a giant lithium-ion battery production facility.
Tesla broke ground in 2014 in Nevada and today about 30% of the factory is complete, at a massive 1.9 million square feet, 4.9 million when counting multiple levels and floors. The factory is being constructed in stages so that each completed part is usable for manufacturing starting its respective date of completion. Once finished, Tesla predicts that the Gigafactory will be the largest building in the world 00 all entirely powered by renewable energy sources such as solar power and wind farms.
Tesla's vision for the Gigafactory is this:
"With the Gigafactory ramping up production, Tesla’s cost of battery cells will significantly decline through economies of scale, innovative manufacturing, reduction of waste, and the simple optimization of locating most manufacturing processes under one roof. By reducing the cost of batteries, Tesla can make products available to more and more people, allowing us to make the biggest possible impact on transitioning the world to sustainable energy." - Tesla
Tesla is already making enormous strides towards bringing the cost of their vehicles down. The Model 3, released in late July, is Tesla's current attempt at an affordable electric car. At roughly $35,000, many people were happy -- they have received over 400,000 orders. Now with Gigafactory battery production to make production costs go down further, I eagerly await to see how much more affordable Tesla's cars will become in the next five years.