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These 9 Slides Put the New Tesla Gigafactory in Perspective

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Title slide Tesla Gigafactory

This week, Tesla Motors officially unveils its massive new Gigafactory 1 at a grand opening event on July 29, 2016.

The ultimate objective of the first Gigafactory is simple, but it is not for the faint of heart. Battery costs are the most expensive component of electric vehicles, and the multi-billion dollar Gigafactory aims to add scale, vertical integration, and other efficiencies together to bring lithium-ion battery costs down.

Costs have already come down faster than most analysts have predicted, and the Gigafactory could be the final catalyst to get below the industry’s holy grail of $100 per kWh. Cheaper battery packs could make electric vehicles competitive with traditional gas-powered vehicles – and if that happens, it is a game-changer for the auto industry.

It’s important to note that the Gigafactory is fairly modular by design, and construction is not completed in full yet. That said, here is what we know about the new Tesla Gigafactory and its possible impact.

1. The Tesla Gigafactory 1 will be the largest building in the world by footprint.

Tesla Gigafactory the largest building by footprint

The Gigafactory will take up 5.8 million sq. ft of space, making it bigger than Boeing’s giant facility in Everett, WA. That’s roughly equivalent to 100 football fields.

While the Gigafactory will certainly be one of the largest factories by volume, it will be hard to compete with Boeing for first place there. Boeing’s Everett facility, which is six storeys high to accommodate the construction giant planes, has a total of 472 million cu. ft of volume.

2. The scale will make production of lithium-ion batteries way cheaper.

Tesla Gigafactory battery production

Tesla recently stated that its current battery cost is $190 per kWh for the Model S.

The Gigafactory aims to reduce battery costs by 30%. Tesla expects this to happen through vertical integration, adding economies of scale, reducing waste, optimizing processes, and tidying up the supply chain.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has also stated that the company is changing the form factor of the batteries away from the industry standard. Lithium-ion cells used for notebook computer batteries are typically produced in an 18650 cell format (18mm x 65mm), but Tesla will produce them in a 20700 cell format (20mm x 70mm).

3. Tesla initially planned to produce 50 GWh of battery packs by 2020.

Tesla Gigafactory battery production

4. However, Tesla has now moved that target forward by two years.

Tesla Gigafactory battery production

Now, it’s anticipated that Tesla could triple battery production to meet this demand. This means it could produce up to 105 GWh of battery cells, and 150 GWh of completed battery packs. Musk says the current factory size will be sufficient for this ramp-up.

5. This will require serious amounts of raw materials.

Tesla Gigafactory raw materials

We previously showed the extraordinary amounts of materials needed to build a Tesla Model S. The batteries, which currently use an NCA cathode formulation, need lithium, graphite, cobalt, nickel, and other base metals that aren’t used as much in an internal combustion engine.

This has created a significant rush for suppliers of these raw materials. It’s also something we are covering in our five-part Battery Series, in which we are looking at lithium-ion battery demand, as well as the materials that will need to be sourced as electric cars go mainstream.

6. If Tesla hits its 2018 projection, it will be a serious milestone for EVs.

Tesla milestone for EVs

Tesla aims to sell 500,000 cars in 2018. If it hits the mark, it will be a big milestone for the electric vehicle market.

To put that number in perspective, the total amount of sales (all-time) for the three most popular EV models (Leaf, Volt, Model S) added up to only about 404,000 cars as of December 2015.

7. This would also put Tesla on par with major auto brands.

Tesla milestone for EVs

Tesla is still a small auto manufacturer – but if it meets its stated production goal of 500,000 vehicles in 2018, that will be comparable with brands like Chrysler, Land Rover, Isuzu, Volvo, and Lexus.

This still doesn’t compare to a giant like Ford, which sold 780,354 F-series pickups alone in 2015. But, it is a step in the right direction for Elon Musk’s company.

8. For every 500,000 electric cars on the road, 192 million gallons of gas is saved.

Impact on environment

That’s equal to 290 Olympic-sized swimming pools filled with gasoline, or 21,333 tanker trucks.

Even taking into account coal power and pollution, driving a Tesla is already far better for the environment in most states.

9. Other Giga-facts

Other Giga-Facts

The Gigafactory will be 100% powered by renewable energy. It’ll have solar panels covering the roof, while also drawing power from wind and geothermal.

It will employ 6,500 people, and it will have a state-of-the-art recycling system to make use of old battery packs.

Elon Musk says the “exit rate” of lithium-ion cells from the Gigafactory will literally be faster than bullets from a machine gun.

BONUS SLIDE:

Elon Musk's Master Plan for Tesla

Last week, Elon Musk unveiled the “master plan” behind Tesla.

The Tesla Gigafactory will ultimately help to make these ambitions possible.

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Energy

Visualized: Inside a Lithium-Ion Battery

Lithium-ion batteries are critical for many modern technologies, from smartphones to smart cities. Here’s how this critical technology works.

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shareable for the lithium-ion battery cross-section

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The following content is sponsored by EnergyX

What’s Inside a Lithium-Ion Battery?

Winning the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2019, the lithium-ion battery has become ubiquitous and today powers nearly everything, from smartphones to electric vehicles. 

In this graphic, we partnered with EnergyX to find out how these important pieces of technology work. 

Looking Inside

Lithium-ion batteries have different standards in various regions, namely NMC/NMCA in Europe and North America and LFP in China. The former has a higher energy density, while the latter has a lower cost. 

Here is the average mineral composition of a lithium-ion battery, after taking account those two main cathode types:

Material% of Construction
Nickel (Ni)4%
Manganese (Mn)5%
Lithium (Li)7%
Cobalt (Co)7%
Copper (Cu)10%
Aluminum (Al)15%
Graphite (C)16%
Other Materials36%

The percentage of lithium found in a battery is expressed as the percentage of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) the battery contains. On average, that is equal to 1g of lithium metal for every 5.17g of LCE.

How Do They Work?

Lithium-ion batteries work by collecting current and feeding it into the battery during charging. Normally, a graphite anode attracts lithium ions and holds them as a charge. But interestingly, recent research shows that battery energy density can nearly double when replacing graphite with a thin layer of pure lithium.

When discharging, the cathode attracts the stored lithium ions and funnels them to another current collector. The circuit can react as both the anode and cathode are prevented from touching and are suspended in a medium that allows the ions to flow easily. 

Powering Tomorrow

Despite making up only 7% of a battery’s weight on average, lithium is so critical for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries that the U.S. Geological Survey has classified it as one of 35 minerals vital to the U.S. economy.

This means refining lithium more effectively is critical to meeting the demand for next-generation lithium-ion batteries. 

EnergyX is powering the clean energy transition with the next generation of lithium metal batteries with longer cycle life, greater energy density, and faster charging times.

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