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An Update on Tesla's Gigafactory

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【Summary】Tesla's Gigafactory started producing a high performance cylindrical '2170 cell' in January of this year which was jointly designed and engineered by Tesla and Panasonic to offer the best performance at the lowest production cost in an optimal form factor for both electric vehicles and energy products.

Original Eric Walz    May 12, 2017 1:45 PM PT
An Update on Tesla's Gigafactory

Now that the Model 3 set to begin production and delivery later this year to the nearly 400,000 people that preordered one, Tesla is needs to be able to build all of the batteries required to power them.

The company has a planned production rate of 500,000 electric cars per year in the latter half of this decade, this total includes the Model S, X, and 3. To do so, Tesla will require the current entire worldwide production of all lithium ion batteries. The Tesla Gigafactory was born of necessity and will supply enough batteries to support the projected vehicle demand.

The factory started producing a high performance cylindrical '2170 cell' in January of this year which was jointly designed and engineered by Tesla and Panasonic to offer the best performance at the lowest production cost in an optimal form factor for both electric vehicles and energy products.

The new battery cell is called ‘2170' because it's 21mm by 70mm. The cell is larger than the previous cell that Tesla developed with Panasonic, which was in an ‘18650' cell format. The battery cells will be used in Tesla's Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2 energy products.

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Tesla's new 2170 battery cell

Cells for Tesla's much anticipated Model 3 sedan cell will follow in Q2 this year, and 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, Tesla revealed.

Tesla's mission is to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy. To achieve that goal, Tesla must produce electric vehicles in sufficient volume to force change in the automobile industry.

In cooperation with Panasonic and other strategic partners, the Gigafactory will produce batteries for significantly less cost using economies of scale, innovative manufacturing, reduction of waste, and the simple optimization of locating most manufacturing process under one roof. We expect to drive down the per kilowatt hour (kWh) cost of our battery pack by more than 30 percent. The Gigafactory will also be powered by renewable energy sources, with the goal of achieving net zero energy.

The name Gigafactory comes from the factory's planned annual battery production capacity of 35 gigawatt-hours (GWh). "Giga" is a unit of measurement that represents "billions". One GWh is the equivalent of generating or using one billion watts for one hour—one million times that of one kWh.

Tesla first broke ground on the Gigafactory in June 2014 in the barren desert outside Sparks, Nevada. By 2018, the Gigafactory is expected to reach full capacity and produce more lithium ion batteries annually at the gigafactory than were produced in all of the world in 2013.

Now the company wants to open more locations to build batteries. Tesla stated in January that it expects to "finalize locations" this year for as many as three new Gigafactories. That would bring the total number to five, including a solar plant in New York. It's unclear if the new factories will be as large or costly as the 5.8 million square foot Gigafactory in Nevada.

Tesla also plans to double the number of Supercharger stations in North America in 2017, boost production of solar tiles later this year and begin production of the Model 3 in July, according to its fourth quarter earnings report.


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