Tesla just took a big step towards realizing CEO Elon Musk’s vision of a sustainable energy future by kicking off the mass production of lithium-ion battery cells at its Gigafactory near Sparks, Nevada. Tesla has set an ambitious target of eventually producing 150 GWh of lithium-ion battery cells annually – enough batteries to support up to 1.5 million electric vehicles. Tesla also plans on manufacturing as many as 500,000 cars per year before 2020. There are more than 400,000 pre-orders for the Model 3 so the demand is certainly there.
The electric vehicle maker and clean energy storage company partnered with Panasonic to design, engineer and manufacture the “2170 battery cell” (21 millimeters in diameter and 70 millimeters in length). The 2170 cells that began production Wednesday will be used in Tesla’s Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2 energy products. The batteries for the Model 3 — the company’s first affordable EV, which is priced at $35,000 and expected to hit the assembly line this year — are set to start production in the second quarter.
Tesla said that by 2018 the Gigafactory will produce 35 GWh/year of lithium-ion battery cells, “nearly as much as the rest of the entire world’s battery production combined.” The Gigafactory is being built in phases, with nearly 30 percent completed — a footprint of 1.9 million square feet. When the 10 million square foot structure is completed, Tesla expects it to be the biggest building in the world. A second Gigafactory is planned for Europe, with the location yet to be announced.
While Musk has discussed how increasing automation will likely lead to a universal basic income for displaced workers, he is doing his part to create jobs. Tesla and Panasonic said they will hire several thousand employees this year and at peak production, the Gigafactory will employ 6,500 people and indirectly create another 20,000 to 30,000 jobs in the surrounding area.