Tesla Motors is accelerating plans to complete its sprawling factory that it calls itsGigafactory, dedicated to building batteries for the company’s mass-market electric Model 3 sedan, CEO Elon Musk said in giving reporters a first look at the site Tuesday.
Production of smaller, cheaper lithium-ion battery cells will start later this year as opposed to 2017. Around 1,000 Gigafactory employees are working in shifts, some around the clock, to meet the new mandate. Eventually, 10,000 will work here.
This factory ramp-up will be critical to Tesla’s ambitious, ten-fold production bump to 500,000 vehicles a year by 2018. Hitting the target would make Tesla the world’s first mass-market electric automaker and help ensure its fiscal future.
Tesla officials said that by approaching the build-out as a scientific challenge, they have tripled the expected output of the completed factory from 500,000 to 1.5 million cars a year.
“The factory itself is a product. It’s the machine that builds the machines and demands more problem solving than the product it makes,” Musk told reporters after a tour of the 2-million-square-foot plant, which represents only 14% of the completed factory that occupies 3,200 acres just east of Reno. On Friday, select Tesla vehicle owners will get a similar tour.
“The factory has far more potential for innovation than the product itself,” said Musk. Asked if Gigafactory would take its place alongside Henry Ford’s assembly line innovation a century ago, Musk quipped, “Well, I just hope civilization is around in 100 years.”