Laying down steel
Workers are laying down a foundation for the Gigafactory’s third floor to support massive machinery. Tesla and Panasonic have redesigned the conventional battery factory by stacking it as much as four stories high, rather than today’s conventional horizontal layout. This ultimately reduces the size of the building, and increases the efficiency of the factory, unlocking cost savings Tesla hopes its competitors can’t match.

Image for article titled A rare, behind-the-scenes look at Tesla’s Gigafactory
Image: James Glover / Reuters

Step on the electrons
There is, of course, a test track to drive Tesla’s vehicles at high speeds.

Factory expansion in high gear
More than 1,000 workers are welding and riveting together the factory’s steel superstructure. Tesla expects 31% of the facility will be completed by 2017. It has set no date for  finishing the entire structure. Tesla plans to power the machinery with solar panels and offsite renewable energy. No fossil fuels will be used on site except in the gas tanks of visiting cars.

Building Section D

Walking through the Tesla factory brings visitors from polished concrete cleanrooms, sealed tight against elements that might ruin a battery, to areas where bare steel beams jut from the existing structure. Tesla plans to dissemble the factory’s exterior wells and move them outward as the expansion continues. Here, the southern side of the building, known as Section D, where lithium ore will enter the facility for processing into batteries, is under construction.

Support beams are lowered in to position during the construction of the new Tesla Motors Inc., Gigafactory, Tuesday, July 26, 2016, in Sparks, Nev. It's Tesla Motors biggest bet yet: a massive, $5 billion factory in the Nevada desert that could almost double the world's production of lithium-ion batteries by 2018. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Image: AP / Rich Pedroncelli

Securing against earthquakes
An aerial view of the site, shot from one of Tesla’s drones on Tuesday, shows the next wing taking shape, which will house Tesla’s expanded battery-assembly facilities. Panasonic, which is investing $1.6 billion in the facility, must move massive equipment into the factory, which lies within an earthquake zone along the West Coast. To secure against this, the company is sinking massive concrete foundations into the ground (as well as steel rods within the factory) to absorb any potential shaking.

Section F construction July 2016
Image: Tesla

Musk’s big hopes
Elon Musk appeared to discuss the Gigafactory seated next to J.B. Straubel, Tesla’s chief technical officer, and Yoshihiko Yamada, executive vice president of Panasonic. He was characteristically restrained. “I think the Gigafactory is the most exciting factory in the world,” he said.

L-R: Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk, Tesla Chief Technical Officer JB Straubel and Yoshi Yamada senior advisor from Panasonic participate in a news conference at the Tesla Gigafactory near Sparks, Nevada, U.S. on July 26, 2016. REUTERS/James Glover II - RTSJT70
Image: James Glover / Reuters

A finished Gigafactory, imagined

Tesla says it will expand the Gigafactory incrementally to learn and improve its processes along the way. While slated to produce 35 GwH of batteries annually by 2018, the site could eventually manufacture three times New York city’s annual energy consumption (150 Mwh), assuming sufficient demand, says Musk.

Image for article titled A rare, behind-the-scenes look at Tesla’s Gigafactory
Image: Tesla

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