Tesla envisions up to 20 ‘Gigafactories’ worldwide

Source: Anne C. Mulkern, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, June 9, 2017

Tesla Inc. will open as many as 20 large factories worldwide as it makes multiple models of electric cars and batteries to store energy, co-founder and CEO Elon Musk said yesterday.

Speaking at a shareholder meeting at the company’s headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., Musk outlined a vision of the company as far larger than it is now and one helping to bring a package of carbon-free solutions.

He said the company is making the transition from an electric carmaker to a “fully integrated sustainable energy company.” Tesla acquired SolarCity Corp. last year and now is selling EVs, batteries and solar.

“It’s a fully contained energy solution that can scale for the whole world,” Musk said, adding that even the factories making the products will be powered by sustainable energy.

Musk said selling solar, EVs and storage counteracts the arguments against EVs that “they’re really coal powered” if that’s the source of the electricity.

“Then you’ve got to store that energy because the sun doesn’t shine at night,” he said. “Real simple: one, two, three.”

Musk, clad in jeans, white shirt and blue blazer, answered questions from the audience. A company official said at the beginning of the meeting that more than 1,000 questions had been submitted online. None of the questions presented asked about President Trump’s council of business executives.

Musk last week tweeted that he would leave as an adviser with that group after the president announced he would withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, a worldwide goal to limit warming.

After a question about what he does to relax, Musk joked that he “sometimes goes crazy on Twitter,” but he did not talk specifically about business council tweets.

Tesla is building its Gigafactory in Nevada to make cars and the batteries for vehicles and for storage. It will be used to make the Model 3, a mainstream market option. That car is aimed at a mid-$30,000 price tag, although Musk has said that with the most popular options added, it likely will hit the low $40,000 mark.

The company will deliver its first production model of the Model 3 next month.

In 2019, he said, Tesla will start selling its planned Model Y, an electric compact SUV. The company will build a new factory to make that car, he said. There’s no room at the existing factory in Fremont, Calif.

He said the company intends to have several Gigafactories, “eventually 10 or 12. Maybe 20. I don’t know, a lot.”

When asked how many factories are now in the works, he said, “We’re really giving serious consideration to three.” He added that “we’re going to try to keep our powder dry” and not reveal more until the company is more confident on locations and timing.

Electric semitruck coming

Musk said the company plans to add additional stores, as well, aiming for one store for every half-million people. That would mean several thousand stores throughout the world.

Tesla plans to add amenities to its largest supercharger stations, he said, so when people take long-distance trips in their EV, “you’ll love the experience.”

The company will unveil a “working prototype” of an electric semitruck in September, Musk said.

He said that Tesla has shown what it is planning to organizations that buy semitrucks and that “they just want to know how many can they buy and how soon?” The audience applauded in response.

Musk, known for his media savvy, teased that there could be surprises at the unveiling of the truck.

“Maybe there’s a little more than we’re saying here,” he said. “Maybe. Could be. Who knows?”

Musk promoted the solar glass tiles that the company will be selling, saying they address “one of the fundamental inhibitions of adding solar, which is, I think, the aesthetics. People love their homes; they want their homes to be beautiful.” The glass tile, he said, “looks better than a normal roof.”