Less than a year ago, groundworks quietly commenced on a plot of land alongside the aptly named Electric Avenue at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Centre in the Reno-Sparks Metropolitan area of Nevada which would one day become Tesla Motor’s very first lithium-ion manufacturing and reprocessing gigafactory.
Since then, we’ve kept a close eye on the project as heavy machinery and an army of construction workers turn the barren land into the largest lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility the world has ever seen, covering more than 1,000 acres in total and due to output more than 35 gigawatt-hours of lithium-ion cells every year and 55 gigawatt-hours of lithium-ion battery packs every year from 2017. We’re not alone either: investors and electric car fans alike have been keeping a close eye on progress at Electric Avenue to watch for any holdups or problems which may delay opening of the Gigafactory fro its planned commissioning date of 2017.
But despite an increase in gigafactory size to account for additional demand for battery packs from Tesla’s recently-announced Tesla Energy products, Nevada’s economic officials say that construction on the Tesla Gigafactory is going so well it may even finish ahead of schedule.
That’s according to the Reno Gazette Journal, which reports that Steve Hill, director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, told Nevada lawmakers during an interim meeting last week that construction on-site was slightly ahead of schedule. If that continued, he inferred, Tesla could be ready to produce lithium-ion battery packs earlier than previously planned.
“Certainly by one year from now, that factory will be producing batteries,” he said.”We’re certainly satisfied and frankly excited about the progress that is being made.”
So far, Hill claims more than 740 construction workers have been hired to aid the construction of the Gigafactory, accounting for a massive boost to the local economy. While only twelve are full-time employees from the state, more are expected to join them in the coming months as the contractors used for construction are replaced with full-time gigafactory employees.
Costing an estimated $6 billion to build and funded both by Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] and Japanese electronics giant Panasonic, the gigafactory’s completion on time and on budget is essential to Tesla’s plans to bring its promised 200-mile, Tesla Model ≡ to market by 2017. Predicted to cost $35,000 before incentives, the Tesla Model ≡ will only be commercially viable for the automaker if its Gigafactory is producing lithium-ion battery packs at a price point low enough to turn a profit on the third-generation car.
During his presentation, Hill also reportedly told lawmakers that Tesla has currently spend some $140 million on the gigafactory construction thus far, with a massive three-quarters of the total budget expected to bee spent on buying and installing the specialist clean-room machinery Tesla and Panasonic will need inside the facility to actually produce the lithium-ion cells.
The Reno Gazette Journal‘s report does seem to tie in with the news from a few months ago that Panasonic was readying itself to bring hundreds of specialist clean-room employees over from Japan to Reno this fall to help Tesla ready the Gigafactory for lithium-ion cell production, but we should also note at this juncture that Tesla has not yet publicly commented on any change in Gigafactory schedule at this time.
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