Elon Musk, our real-life Tony Stark, is on a mission to save the world by transitioning to sustainable energy through increasingly affordable electric vehicles and energy products. To produce 5,00,000 such cars per year, a worldwide supply of lithium-ion batteries would be needed. To fulfill the projected demand, Tesla’s Gigafactory came into being. The name Gigafactory, another Musk original, comes from the word ‘Giga’ which is a unit of measurement denoting billions. Here is a succinct list of facts about a factory that is anything but.

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Rendering of the completed project_©Tesla

1. Flagship Gigafactory is in Nevada with four other set-up in New York, Shanghai, Berlin, and Texas 

The 3000-acre flagship Gigafactory is located in Storey County, Nevada. Nevada won out as the site for construction after beating at least five other states including California and Texas by offering incentive packages.  The construction on the original site of 1000 acres began in June 2014, a year after which an additional 1864 acres of land was purchased. Giga Nevada was true north aligned, which allows for accurate GPS mapping and alignment of solar panels on the roof. The Gigafactory is being built in phases so that manufacturing of the 2170 cells can begin immediately inside the finished sections and continue to expand subsequently. Other Gigafactories are located in Buffalo, New York, and Shanghai, China, which was the first Gigafactory to be built outside of the US, Berlin, Germany, and Austin, Texas.

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Giga Nevada_©Wikipedia/Smnt
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Giga New York_©Licarco.com
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Giga Shanghai_©Jason Lang YouTube Video capture
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Giga Berlin_©Tobias Lindh Youtube Video capture
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Giga Texas_©Twitter/peterdog15

2. The largest usable building footprint in the world

The most striking feature of the Gigafactory is its gargantuan size. It will have the largest footprint in the world upon completion surpassing Boeing’s Everett facility, which will still be superior in terms of volume due to its six stories accommodating the construction of massive planes. The Gigafactory will cover an area of around 13 million square feet when it is fully up and running. The current structure already has a footprint of almost 0.18 million square meters, with around 492,000 square meters of operating area spread out across several floors. To put it into perspective, it is currently only 30% complete and its size has already surpassed Indira Gandhi International airport, Delhi, which is the largest airport in India.

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Relative size of the Gigafactory_©Visual Capitalist

3. 5,00,000 electric vehicles are projected to be produced every year

The stimulant for the Gigafactory was the frustration of having to ship parts between different assembly locations. Musk says the obvious way to combat shipping costs is to at least put a Gigafactory on the same continent. The new facility will be capable of housing all stages of production on the same site.

For every 500,000 electric cars on the road, 192 million gallons of gas are saved which is equal to 290 Olympic-sized swimming pools filled with gasoline. Today, the Gigafactory produces Model 3 electric motors and battery packs, along with Tesla’s energy storage products, Powerwall and Powerpack.

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The Giga is going to produce 500,000 of these every year_©Tesla
The Powerwall is a battery designed to store electricity from solar panels in average homes_©Lauren Sommer

4. The project is projected to cost over $5 billion

The funding comes from Musk’s fortune, Tesla’s developmental partner Panasonic and individual investors. The factory is a tie-up with the Japanese company that invested just under $2 billion in the plant and makes Tesla’s cells, Panasonic. 

5. The Gigafactory will run 100% on renewable energy

Aligning with its goal for a sustainable future, it is hardly a surprise that the Gigafactory will be completely powered by renewable energy, to achieve net-zero energy. Giga Nevada is aligned on true north, which allows for accurate GPS mapping of the equipment and alignment of solar panels on the roof. The roof of the structure will be painted white to better reflect light and keep things cool. Tesla announced plans for a 70MW rooftop array of solar panels which would make it the largest worldwide by a wide margin. The construction finally began in 2018, but it has not reached the projected scale due to lags.

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(left)September 2021 and (Right) January 12,2022_©Building Tesla

6. They are streamlining the production process to achieve an affordable end-product

Tesla estimates the reduction in battery prices to be around 30%, by the time the factory is fully operational. Ramping up production of the Gigafactory, the economies of scale, innovative manufacturing, waste reduction, and simple optimization of locating most if not all manufacturing processes under one roof will dramatically cut the battery cost. The lowered cost of batteries will make the next car more affordable making it available to more and more people, allowing the biggest possible impact on transitioning the world to sustainable energy.

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Affordability_©Visual Capitalist

7. The factory is composed of different structures on separate foundations to resist earthquakes

Instead of the building being as monolithic as it looks from the outside, the factory is built in sections. It is composed of four different structures built on four separate foundations to enhance its resistance to earthquakes. This certainly helps its chances of minimizing damages during an earthquake, especially considering it comes under an earthquake-prone zone. So far, an estimated $16 million have been spent on the foundation alone. 

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Foundation being laid for the factory_©Tesla

8. HVAC is being built between the floors and robots are performing tasks

Once again, the innovations in the factory are commendable with the HVACs being built between the floors instead of on the walls and ceilings. Robots called “Automated guided vehicles’ or AGVs move around on the factory floor independently, equipped with sensors and a laser system to help guide them, navigating on their own by following magnetic tape on the ground. In manufacturing, AGVs are widely used to transport things from one point to another.

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An AGV shaped like R2D2 from Star wars_©Imgur

9. The cells will be produced faster than bullets from a machine gun

The facility originally had a production capacity of 35 GWh of battery cells and 50 GWh of battery packs, with a workforce of 6,500 employees. In 2017, the business found a way to make better use of space and announced new goals of 105 GWh of battery cells and 150 GWh of battery packs, more than tripling its previous targets. When the project is done, it will employ roughly 10,000 people. This prompted Musk to say battery production levels will be “faster than bullets from a machine gun”.

10. It is nowhere near complete with its progress being static for the past four years

Gigafactory was opened in 2016, with only 14 percent of the building constructed. However, this was enough space for production operations to be put in motion with the construction being carried on in the background. But the factory currently stands at 30 percent completion and has been for the past four years. The Gigafactory is completely packed with no more room for anything without expanding the structure. The Model Y is supposed to be built there, maybe other models as well, however, Tesla has not yet broken ground to expand the exterior structure. There is no intimation from Tesla as to when the expansion will finally commence. 

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Usage of the spaces_©Stanford Energy YouTube Video Capture
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Timeline of the construction_©CleanTechnica

The Giga factory could be emblematic of a new turn towards the treatment of architecture as a logistical machine that rejects context and bases design decisions on economic rationality.

References:

  1. CleanTechnica. 2022. Tesla Gigafactory 1 Timeline & Results — CleanTechnica Deep Dive. [online] Available at: <https://cleantechnica.com/2019/01/20/tesla-gigafactory-1-timeline-a-deep-dive/> [Accessed 4 April 2022].
  2. CleanTechnica. 2022. Tesla Nevada Gigafactory — Something Strange Is Going On, But It’s Not What You Think. [online] Available at: <https://cleantechnica.com/2019/04/20/tesla-nevada-gigafactory-something-strange-is-going-on-but-its-not-what-you-think/> [Accessed 3 April 2022].
  3. Licarco – Latest Electric Cars, E-Motors, Vehicle Comparisons. 2022. How Many Gigafactories Does Tesla Have? Possible Locations for the New Gigafactories – Licarco. [online] Available at: <https://www.licarco.com/news/how-many-tesla-gigafactories> [Accessed 4 April 2022].
  4. Nast, C., 2022. Building the future inside Tesla’s Gigafactory. [online] Architectural Digest India. Available at: <https://www.architecturaldigest.in/content/inside-gigafactory-tesla-building-future/> [Accessed 5 April 2022].
  5. Tesla.com. 2022. Tesla Gigafactory | Tesla Australia. [online] Available at: <https://www.tesla.com/en_AU/gigafactory?redirect=no> [Accessed 3 April 2022].
  6. Visual Capitalist. 2022. These 9 Slides Put the New Tesla Gigafactory in Perspective. [online] Available at: <https://www.visualcapitalist.com/9-slides-put-new-tesla-gigafactory-perspective/> [Accessed 4 April 2022].
  7. Youtube.com. 2022. Watch the new huge Tesla Gigafactory get built in seconds. [online] Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koap7glkHek&t=27s> [Accessed 3 April 2022].
Author

Rishima is a fifth year architecture student currently interning in Pune. She is an avid reader and occasionally blurts out coherent thoughts. She believes creating an equitable space for all and providing a uniform experience regardless of gender, sexual preferences, age, abilities, class and caste is the responsibility of each architect.

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