As Tesla develops the mass-market Model 3, it is simultaneously working on the Nevada Gigafactory that will produce the boatloads of batteries required.
When the futuristic factory is finished in 2020, it is expected to produce more lithium-ion batteries than all the world’s other battery factories combined. When completed the 13-million-square-foot facility will have the largest footprint of any building in the world. In overall volume, it will be second only to the Washington plant where Boeing builds 747s.
The Gigafactory is being built in stages, and some sections are already in operation, producing Powerwalls and Powerpacks for home energy storage. Production of cells and automotive battery packs is expected to begin this year.
Tesla hopes to power the huge operation entirely with renewable energy. “Our strategic plan is to get to net zero consumption, which we plan to achieve through a combination of solar, wind, and stationary storage,” a spokesperson told Tech Insider. “Our goal is that all of the energy used is renewable energy.”
Sister company SolarCity will not necessarily be providing the solar panels. Tesla told the Reno Gazette-Journal that SolarCity will have to participate in a competitive bidding process for the project.
To better withstand earthquakes, the factory is composed of four different structures built on four separate foundations, Tesla told Fast Company.
The complete life cycle of lithium-ion batteries will play out at the Gigafactory – raw materials in one end, completed battery packs out the other. Old batteries will also be recycled on site, and nickel, aluminum, and lithium will be extracted for use in new cells.
The Gigafactory and its industrial neighbors are surrounded by miles of desert wilderness. As if to remind its human and robotic inhabitants of an earlier age of transportation, wild horses roam the area.
A new episode of the HBO show Vice, called The Future of Energy, features footage from inside the Gig and an interview with Elon Musk.