Today marks a significant milestone for electric car manufacturer Tesla. The company has officially began producing lithium ion battery packs at its Reno, Nevada “Gigafactory.” Despite the milestone, the plant is far from finished.
Tesla is producing actual battery cells at the Reno facility, which proves a significant milestone for the U.S. as well as most battery cell production has been dominated in China and South Korea. Tesla is already employing over 2,000 workers at the plant, but it estimating it will have 4,000 additional workers in the plant by the end of 2017 with a partnership between Tesla and Panasonic.
The ultimate goal for Tesla is to have the Gigafactory running at full capacity by 2018 with 6,500 employees. Assuming the company achieves its goal, the 4.9 million square foot facility will singlehandedly double the world’s output of lithium ion battery packs.
With today’s numbers, Tesla and Panasonic have beaten their original goals with the Gigafactory. The two companies promised the Nevada government they would hire 4,000 employees by 2019, 6,500 by 2020. Clearly both goals are ending up panning out about a couple years ahead of schedule.
The Gigafactory isn’t just building lithium ion batteries for Tesla cars. The company is also building battery packs for homes and for backing up the electric grid. In September the company announced a deal with Southern California Edison to supply 20 megawatts of electric to prevent blackouts.
In an era of falling battery prices, Tesla’s mega bet on battery power is a risky one at best. The next couple of years will prove whether the Gigafactory bet is one that will ultimately pay off or not.