In the desert just outside Reno, Nevada, a massive construction project is taking place which will soon become home to Tesla Motors’ first massive lithium-ion battery manufacturing and reprocessing facility. Called the “Tesla Gigafactory,” the facility covers more than 1,000 acres and will one day employ upwards of 6,500 highly-skilled staff, churning out a total of 35 gigawatt-hours of lithium-ion battery packs per year.
Last July, our local contact on the ground Bob Tregilus, producer and host of Plug In America’s EV podcast, snapped some of the very first photographs of the Reno site, weeks before Tesla confirmed the location was indeed the chosen site for its first battery manufacturing facility. Then last month, Tregilus revisited the facility, snapping some super-higher resolution shots of the gigafactory construction progress, showing the facility literally buzzing with massive earth-movers, cranes, and construction equipment.
Earlier today, he emailed the latest photographs of the construction site, snapped on his latest trip to the Taho Reno Industrial Centre where the Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] facility is located.
Since his last visit, the main Gigafactory building has almost doubled in size, with many of the large steel girders and platforms we saw in January resting on the ground now lifted and bolted into place in the Gigafactory’s framework. Given the remaining girders still lying neatly in rows on the ground to the side of the construction area, we’d guess that the gigafactory’s external frame work is now about 60 percent complete, and predict that we may well see the frame work itself completed in the next month.
Unlike his previous set of photographs, Tregilus’ latest visit appears to have taken place outside normal construction times, so there’s only a handful of workers on site. As well as making the gigafactory site look a little less hectic, it provides us with a much clearer picture of what has and hasn’t changed.
Most noticeable, other than the progress made to the building itself, is the ground work to the right-side of the pictures as we look at them. Back in January, this area was full of uneven land, with teams of earth movers dotted over the picture, presumably working to grade and even out the landscape.
In the latest shot, we see that the area has mainly been flattened, with only a few graders seen working on the final flattening process.
As Tesla CEO hinted in the recent Q4, 2014 earnings call, construction on the Gigafactory is progressing well, meeting or even beating schedule. With latest estimates predicting the gigafactory will be ready to produce its first batteries some time next year however, construction needs to continue at the same high-speed in order to meet all of Tesla’s demanding deadlines.
Costing Tesla an estimated $5 billion with an estimated $1 billion investment from Tesla’s current battery manufacturer Panasonic, the Tesla Gigafactory won’t be wholly owned and operated by Tesla. Instead, while the building will be owned by Tesla, it will house various different companies involved in the lithium-ion battery manufacturing and recycling process, allowing its suppliers and partners to operate under one roof, eliminating transportation costs and speeding up the overall supply chain.
At one end of the facility, used battery packs and raw materials will enter for recycling and refining. At the other, completed battery packs will emerge, ready to be used in Tesla’s range of electric vehicles, including the upcoming 2016 Tesla Model X crossover SUV and the highly-anticipated, $30,000 Tesla Model ≡ Electric sedan.
It’s likely too that the Gigafactory will be the source of battery packs for Tesla’s recently-announced home battery backup system, although details on this particular product have yet to be released.
As always, we’d love to hear your views on these latest photographs from Reno, which are reproduced here under the CC 4.0 licence. Let us know your thoughts in the Comments below.
PHOTO LICENSE: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International by Bob Tregilus. Permission specifically granted by photographer for use on this commercial website.”
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