Tesla Gigafactory Opens With Eyes on Expansion, Buses

"The revolution will come from the people."

Getty Images / VCG

The grand opening of Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 brought several different investors, customers, and partners to Nevada this evening for a massive party, and a sneak peek at what’s to come. Tesla opened its doors to the press just a few days ago for a special sneak peek, but the grand opening revealed slightly more on the agenda for the company, including a huge expansion and high hopes for Tesla buses in the future.

Attendees included 12 golden ticket-winning Model 3 buyers and their guests, along with several Tesla owners and eager Silicon Valley peers. While the Gigafactory has a long way to go with its less-than-stellar stream from this evening, one thing was for certain: the direction it’s going is up. Founder Elon Musk took the stage with a huge batch of news and confirmations, joking that the factory — which is bigger than the Pentagon — would need 50 billion hamsters running on wheels in order to operate — but luckily, it’s solar power that does all that work and no hamsters were harmed in the making of this Gigafactory.

Musk began the night with remarks on the Gigafactory’s scale, and why it matters. “It has to be big, because the world is big,” said Musk. “What you’re seeing here is only 14 percent… it’s only one-seventh of what the factory will be.” Ultimately, the Gigafactory will produce about 150 Gigawatts. The presentation detailed how Tesla planned on creating their affordable cars on the massive scale that the Gigafactory functioned at — but the Q& A that followed was also, unexpectedly, interesting. Here are a few highlights from Musk himself:

On building new Gigafactories: “It’s gonna make sense to have at least a Gigafactory in every continent … we’ll kind of reach saturation here, and we’re gonna start a factory here, a factory in Europe, in China, and other parts of Asia as well.”

On recycling at the Gigafactory: “All battery packs will be recycled, which makes sense … because we know what the module looks like, so we can actually design the recycling machines that are exactly optimized for the battery pack because we’re not trying to recycle an arbitrary battery pack, we’re trying to recycle a known battery pack.”

On how many employees work in the building: “Right now we have about a thousand people working on-site, and with the expansion to 150 gigawatt hours, we expect there will be some sort of efficiency that’s gained, but it’s still probably on the order of ten thousand people working on that.”

On priorities behind the Model 3’s production: “I think people are really taking it to heart within Tesla that it’s more important to design the factory than the Tesla itself. … I’m actually feeling really optimistic about [The Model 3] … the design is done … as you do more testing there’s some tweaks required, but we are benefiting from a lot of experience with the Model S and X, so I’m feeling great about it.”

On Tesla creating ships and other forms of transportation in the future: “All forms of transport will go electric. I don’t currently anticipate Tesla doing ships, but if someone else doesn’t…”

On producing lithium-ion batteries at the plant: “The nice thing about Lithium is that it’s very plentiful. Lithium is the third-most common element in the universe. The hydrogen is all bound up in water … so you don’t find naturally-occurring hydrogen on earth. And the helium.. doesn’t combine with anything and basically floats away. But lithium is metal and it won’t float away … it’s called lithium-ion, so it’s sort of the active ingredient, but it’s only about 2% of the battery.”

Other questions involved the roadster, to which Musk replied carefully. “I would love to do the next roadster,” he said. “But that’s gotta be dessert.” Tesla is currently focused on producing more “affordable market cars”, but as Musk had said earlier regarding the buses, “it’s all in the cards for one day.”

Musk closed the night with messages about the future and how Tesla — along with its employees — are taking it into their own hands. “There’s a non-stop propaganda campaign from the fossil fuel industry. They’re just defending themselves and it’s kind of what you would expect but its non-stop,” said Musk to a flurry of boos. “But this revolution is gonna come from the people … so I’d just like to fight propaganda. I think it’s gonna get real nutty with the U.S. election and all that.”

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