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Tesla Flips the Switch on the Gigafactory (bloomberg.com)
446 points by fmihaila on Jan 4, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 153 comments



"a diamond-shaped factory of outlandish proportions is emerging from the sweat and promises of Tesla CEO Elon Musk"

I can't help being reminded of the Bertolt Brecht poem:

    Who built the seven gates of Thebes?
    The books are filled with names of kings.
    Was it the kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?
https://allpoetry.com/A-Worker-Reads-History


As with everything, there is not one single cause. However, if you ask which cause of the gigafactory was least interchangeable with the rest, Musk seems like as good a candidate as any.


Ask yourself this, would spacex or tesla exist if Elon Musk weren't here?


Not OP, but he's not saying Elon doesn't deserve credit, he's just saying he doesn't deserve all the credit. The quote makes it sounds like Elon himself build everything alone, rather than being a successful leader, as well innovator.


To be fair, Tesla existed before Elon took over it.


It's similar in concept to comparing Starbucks before and after Schultz. The before and after companies have practically nothing in common.


Ask yourself this. Would Elon Musk be here if there was no...business opportunity?

Now you know your true lord to bow down...


no ask yourself THIS: would elon musk have done any of this if he were married?


How is the factory diamond shaped?


It's shaped like a diamond which has been cut into a factory shape.


It's octagonal in plan. Gems are sometimes cut to have that shape, though I don't think anyone would associate it with diamonds.


beautiful poem, thanks for the pointer!


>By 2018, the Gigafactory, which is less than a third complete, will double the world’s production capacity for lithium-ion batteries and employ 6,500 full-time Reno-based workers, according to a new hiring forecast from Tesla.

Unless those workers will be putting in thousands of hours per week (impossible, I know), this implies some truly prodigious productivity statistics: that by using the best available manufacturing techniques, they can double the world's battery production on 260,000 hours/week of labor.


> Unless those workers will be putting in thousands of hours per week (impossible, I know), this implies some truly prodigious productivity statistics: that by using the best available manufacturing techniques, they can double the world's battery production on 260,000 hours/week of labor.

Tesla acquired a renowned German manufacturing automation firm [1]. I wouldn't be surprised if the Gigafactory is heavily automated as well.

[1] https://electrek.co/2016/11/08/tesla-acquires-german-enginee...


"“Over time, the majority of our engineering effort is going into engineering the factory as a product itself,” said Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk …“It’s the machine that builds the machine. If we take creative engineers and apply them to design the factory, they make five to ten times more headway than improving the product itself.”"

https://qz.com/745278/teslas-entire-future-depends-on-the-gi...

-- 16.08.03


This. Why manufacturing needs to be done here in the USA. Those who control manufacturing control all the things. When you control the factory you figure out how to make the factory smarter. Tesla could have just said "Hey, we need batteries. Let's make them in China... they can make everything!" But instead they decided to be the masters of their own destiny.

Elon is very smart, indeed.


It is smart to be involved in the manufacturing process. There's a spectrum between building a factory and outsourcing completely: having an active say in how your products are made makes sense. Paying for and owning every step of the way might not. Especially if you don't have the capabilities and bandwidth of Elon Musk -

(can we admire running SpaceX & Tesla and being impressive at SolarCity, OpenAI concurrently, or is that fanboyism?)


Part of the manufacturing has been built by Panasonic, in partnership with Tesla, based on their existing expertise on how to produce batteries at scale.


Yes, Tesla is leaning very heavily on Panosonic as a manufacturing partner at both the Gigafactory and the Solar City plant in Buffalo, New York.


I've heard somewhere (possibly in a BBC TV report) that batteries are passed through a hole in the floor from Tesla to Panasonic enclaves because neither company wants the other to know fully about the processes required to finish the final product. Hence the joint venture on one site.

edit: ok, the article[0] doesn't mention secrecy as the motive but yes a hole is involved. And the motive for a single site is to reduce transportation costs.

[0]http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-36893104


Very impressive to see all those jokes about "fully automated luxury blah blah blah" starting to come true!


Well, the "fully automated" part increasingly coming true; we'll see how much the luxury spreads.


It definitively put stuff into perspective.

6500 jobs is a big number in human scale. That's more people that you know.

But that's 0.05% of the manufacturing jobs in the US alone. 0.05% of the manufacturing power of the US fitted with the latest tech match the output of the whole Lithium-ion battery sector.

Obviously that's 1 specific field and product and you can't extrapolate to everything else, but really you can't help but think that even maintaining current employment in manufacturing will require staggering increase in manufacturing output of the US. If Trump is even a bit serious about trying (and has the congress support for it), it would require a colossal disruption of the market either through regulation, taxation, investment, ...


6500 people need to live somewhere. They need to eat. They need haircuts. They need medical services. And all those other people need the same services too.

I could keep going but you get the idea. Jobs create more jobs which create more jobs.


The point is that it's a fraction of the number of employees needed to accomplish the same tasks 50 years ago or even 10 years ago.


What's the point of making that statement? 'Cotton production requires a fraction of the number of employees needed to accomplish the same tasks 150 years ago.'

The bottom line is this: It's an advanced economy sector industry creating jobs in the US, where none existed before. Not in spite of, but because it's a highly automated factory, it can be built in the US. The more "great American" companies that build advanced factories, the better for the US economy.

Frankly, I'm most impressed that this project seems to be on schedule. Gives me a little encouragement that we can execute on mega projects like this.


The point is that the jobs that were lost in manufacturing will never come back. Even if everything is shifted back from China/Mexico to the US, very few of the jobs will come back. The old world as many Trump supporters hope for will not return and we have to think of a way to go forward.


If I remember correctly, Tesla are supposedly unusually keen on automation. Possibly more so than the economics actually justify, even - or at least, there were some doubts amongst industry experts as to whether the ways in which they automated tasks actually made sense, given the cost and speed of the robots they were using compared to a human.


"or at least, there were some doubts amongst industry experts as to whether the ways in which they automated tasks actually made sense, given the cost and speed of the robots they were using compared to a human."

That makes sense, considering that Tesla's approach seems to be to get the tech set up first, and then make it economical with R&D breakthroughs later.


It's all a front set up to provide a plausible reason for building the infrastructure that our upcoming AI robotic overlords requested from Elon.


The great thing would be if the increased output from this automation matched what USA currently produces in China. Then it could gain independence from China, and China could finally give those goods to their internal markets. And employment standards could be respected in both countries (however products built in USA will still be significantly more expensive, matching hopefully higher salaries).


The net result is both countries would be poorer, we didn't start international trade for no reason, there are strong economic and politcal benefits to trade.


Maybe the rich will get poorer. I suspect income inequality would decrease however. Median income would increase.


What mechanism do you think will decrease inequality?


Related; the factory is said to be 1.3M square meters when completed. So each employee will have 200 square meters for himself and his robot coworkers. Except of course that they are probably not at work at the same time. So maybe 600 square meters.


So if the workers are equally distributed they never see each other except at the entrance and during lunch. Nice.


I refer to it occasionally since I toured it once upon a time but General Motors built a new assembly factory near Lansing, Michigan that was the most advanced facility in the world at the time.

It's 320,000 sq. meters and employs about 3,800 people across three shifts, so call it 1,300/shift to make the math easy. That's about 1 employee per 250 sq. meters. Except that the machines and robots that build the modern world are enormous. They take up a huge percentage of the area of the factory.

The work that the humans actually performed was typically in small teams of 4-5 people as they wound cabling through the frame, ensured everything was aligned properly, performed a few welds that their 5-axis welders couldn't efficiently reach, etc. It was fascinating to see where the robotic investment wasn't worth it at the time.


I find the fact that some of these jobs are still not effective to be done by robots fascinating. At what point will we automate those jobs as well? Is it just the cost/benefit ratio is wrong currently? I cannot believe that it's strictly impossible to make a robot that can do all those task.


At the time, most of the human workers were doing things that required significant dexterity beyond the ability of the robots.

Taking a wiring harness;

https://i.imgur.com/H3XVf92.png

Routing it through the firewall and then making a dozen connections is simple for a worker, but extremely complex for a robot.

That factory was turning out 1 car/minute, so the $30/hr guy plugging harnesses in would add maybe $0.50 to the cost of the car? When you're selling vehicles with MSRPs over $40k (this was a large SUV assembly facility), the threshold for automating something is higher than you might expect.


Square meter numbers sound bigger than they are because they're, well, squared. 600 square meters is less than 25 meters square.


SpaceX (another of Elon Musk's companies) has achieved similar feats in the realm of space flight.

According to his biography <https://www.amazon.com/Elon-Musk-SpaceX-Fantastic-Future/dp/..., Musk is particularly good at identifying supply-chain components that can be economically produced in-house. The Gigafactory looks like the same general strategy, and if it pays off as well as the SpaceX case has, they have a good chance of achieving their production goals.


What happens when he starts combining companies?

Space X launches the rocket that takes solar-powered self-driving machinery to Mars which starts building solar-powered settlements. By the time we get there, we're not fighting for basic survival, we're just moving in...


Most supply-chain components can be economically produced in-house. You just need the capital to build a 5B factory, which is a whole different kind of problem in my opinion.


Anyone know how many full-time workers are employed in battery factories currently? With that figure we could estimate the Gigafactory productivity multiplier for labor.


>that by using the best available manufacturing techniques, they can double the world's battery production on 260,000 hours/week of labor.

Mostly true, but to get a complete figure you might also factor in labor hours from upstream vendors which supply parts and/or raw materials. Increased battery production also means increased raw material extraction/processing/transportation.

Still impressive though. There's probably less than 50k workers involved in producing the world's battery supply.


I think a lot is only possible when you aren't tying you own hands with re-using/preserving already built capital equipment.



I'm not sure I'd class the Gigafactory as a disruption in the "Innovators dilemma" sense. I think some of the genius of Musk is that his bets actually minimize the big unknowns in a physical realm while at this point in the business dimension, the demand for Tesla's new model is known to sufficient certainty that this factory is needed to fill the capacity.

The core battery tech isn't new, but the machinery and the automation of the process is.. but that's a much smaller risk than say trying to build this factory on a "disruptive" new battery tech.


Also, Tesla is building out an energy storage business that can (according to Tesla's conference calls) eat a practically unlimited amount of battery packs with decent margins. So they also have some insurance there in case car demand should be lower than anticipated, or car production should hit delays.


What's your source on that?

I don't understand why it takes so much labor. I would have thought automation to be massive.


Well, let's put it another way. At 50 GWh, I believe the Gigafactory will be producing at least 2.5 billion individual batteries annually.

If you divide that by 6,500 employees supporting the manufacturing, it comes to about 385,000 batteries produced per employee per year.


Ok, but assembly lines, robots, automation. They don't have to necessarily employ the truck drivers/transport/distributors.

So what is the biggest labor item?


The map of the intended extent of the factory is interesting. It's not even halfway completed yet. When people say that this is the largest factory in the world, do they mean that it is currently the largest, or that it will be the largest when fully completed (presumably by 2020)?

And even if Tesla does end up going kaput, the factory shell may very well be a mecca for urban explorers. :)


It will be the largest by sqft when completed. Boeing has a factory that will still be largest by volume.


If you are ever in the Seattle area, I highly recommend the Boeing factory tour. It's sort of like visiting the Grand Canyon - the scale of the structure is so massive that it's a bit hard for the brain to process what it sees.


When I saw their buildings I literally thought "I didn't know doors could be this big".


I have done that tour and one of my favorite parts was the view from the balcony of a three story office building inside.


Yes, the inside views were what captivated me as well. From the outside, I didn't think the buildings looked as massive as the claims I'd read. But as soon as I was inside, I realized that my mind just wasn't equipped to judge the size of the building from the outside.


I'm the wrong side of the ocean to pop in, but now I'm picturing it as Magrathea from hitchhikers.


... where you have this hugh lift running you through the planet building hall. Had immediately the same idea.


My best bit of the tour was the explanation that if the climate control system ever goes down, the building's large enough to develop its own weather systems, including potentially clouds and rain.


Hmm, I recall the tour differently - they said the building has no hvac, instead they just open/close the doors.


It's been decades, so I'm probably remembering it wrong.

Point is: building's big.


That's really interesting to hear and makes me want to visit, because that was my reaction when seeing the Grand Canyon the first time. My brain took a little bit to accept what it was seeing.


You may be stretching the definition of sort of. The Boeing factory, while indeed large at 13.38 million cubic meters, is sort of smaller than the Grand Canyon at 4.98 trillion cubic meters. This is like saying that the number 1 is sort of close to the number 372,457 (number of Boeing factories that fit in the Grand Canyon). Tongue-firmly-in-cheek I'm definitely going to go check out the Boeing tour now.


You are of course right, the Grand Canyon is vastly larger. The effect on my brain was still the same. I think maybe what happens is that some object break our ability to relate a thing back to human dimensions.

I don't get the same effect when looking at a skyscraper; maybe that's because each floor is usually visibly marked, so it can be related back to the self.


If most of the numbers you encounter yer day-to-day are on the order of 0.00005 (the relative volume of my house), then perhaps 1 would seem as unrealistically massive as 372,457!


With all due respect, I think you have sort of overinterpreted the point he was trying to make.


The article reads:

> a diamond-shaped factory of outlandish proportions

I'm not seeing a diamond shape anywhere. It's all very rectangular to me.


The eventual layout looks like an emerald-cut diamond to me.


I wondered the same thing. There's a Wikipedia page about it that is less fluffy, but it still isn't clear: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gigafactory_1

"Tesla had said that the factory will be up to 10 million square feet [1 million square meters] in one or two stories"

And to be a nitpicker - calling it a gigafactory is kind of an insult to SI prefixes. Gigafactory implies 10^9 factories... So if 1 Testla gigafactory is 10^7 sq. ft, that means to Tesla, a typical factory is 0.01 sq. ft (1.44 sq. inches)? Hmmmmm... gotta love marketing.


I had always thought that giga was primarily a reference to the annual capacity of batteries it was producing, not its size. i.e. `Its projected capacity for 2018 is 50 GWh/yr of battery packs` per the wikipedia page you linked. Perhaps there is a bit of wordplay though in its size also being gigantic.


i think op knows.


Based on my quantity of down votes, I don't think many people got it. That will teach me to joke about Tesla on HN! Or maybe it just wasn't funny.


Tongue-in-cheek writing is really hard to distinguish in plaintext when you play it so straight. And especially when you transitioned into it so abruptly from a legitimate, honest answer.

If your comment had contained only the facetious part more people might have picked up on it. But probably not even then since humor is often downvoted on HN so people don't expect it like they do on other sites.


There really are people who would get legitimately annoyed that Tesla is abusing the "giga" prefix when they're not actually building a billion factories. Hard to tell when it's one of those or when it's actually a joke: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe's_law


It was funny but yeah I didn't think you were joking when I first read it. Unfortunate that you played it so straight :p.


Megaman is also not a million men.

> Giga is derived from the greek word meaning "giant"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giga-


Yea, Mini or Micro USB, Mini and Micro sim cards. If I buy a Megapack in the Supermarket I don't expect a literal Megapack either.

They are just cool words :)


https://electrek.co/2016/09/25/tesla-gigafactory-aerial-shot...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_buildings#Larg...

it will be the largest when completed. it's a long way from a 530m^2 footprint right now.


The gigafactory is in Nevada, that wiki link shows Fremont, CA, which is its vehicle assembly plant.


Picture in the first link is correct.

The wiki link does talk about Fremont, which is kinda relevant to the discussion, being the current footprint champ.

It's amazing that all that factory space is for producing these little guys: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesla_Factory#Battery_pack_con...


10 million square foot laser tag game.


Where is all that Lithium coming from?

Top producing countries, US is #8:

http://investingnews.com/daily/resource-investing/energy-inv...


Mostly it is coming from salt flats (or "salars") in Chile (as well as Argentina and Bolivia). It can also be produced by refining a mineral called spodumene which can be found in places such as Australia. If you want to read more, you can look at the annual report from Albemarle, the largest lithium producer in the world:

https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/915913/0000915913160...


Clayton Valley Nevada has the only commercial Lithium Mines in North America. Clayon Valley's Sliver Peak mine is operated by Albemarle who is one of the top 3 lithium suppliers in the world. Clayton Valley South is operated by Pure Energy. Both are working with Tesla.

* Clayton Valley is ~3.5 hours from Tesla's Gigafactory.


"Clayton Valley Nevada has the only commercial Lithium Mines in North America"

Oceanview Mine (part of the Pala Chief group) in San Diego county California is a commercial lepidolite (micaceous lithium ore) mine. They're shipping out TONS of that nice purple rock every time I'm out there buying it from them.


Extracting lithium from lepidolite is at best twice as expensive as extracting it from brine. Lithium from ore sources is not commercially viable. So while Oceanview might be a commercial mine, it's not a commercial lithium mine.


Ah, what pray tell, does one do with all that fancy purple rock?


Spodumene and Lepidolite are the most readily-available source of high-quality lithium, making up over 50% of the world's lithium supply. Rarely is it made into jewelry, usually only as an inclusion into another mineral such as quartz or feldspar.


Jewelry.


Rarely is lepidolite gem-grade. It's much more useful as a lithium ore, as the extraction methods improved as of last year, putting it almost on par with brine extraction.


Stone, not gems, are frequently used in jewelry.

What extraction methods are you referring to? The Sileach method that Lithium Australia began piloting this year? That still isn't commercially viable.


Geothermal extraction. Very viable here in SoCal where a huge chunk of our lithium mines are located, since we've got plenty of geothermal around. See, spodumene and lepidolite make up more than 50% of the world's supply of lithium because those sources produce large amounts rapidly, despite the costs. Having these sources next to geothermal energy sources makes it much more viable to do the 'roasting' at practically zero energy cost.


Neat! I hadn't heard of that.


Also, there are more methods coming onto market which might make brine and geothermal methods of the past. Leaching, solvent extraction, and electrolysis are methods gaining traction and developing at a fair pace.


Well, at their scale, the answer would be pretty obvious -- from all of those places probably.

Although interestingly, US production isn't far from the factory and has an undisclosed volume, not strictly the 8th largest


Nickel and Cobalt play big roles in Tesla's batteries as well.

https://electrek.co/2016/11/01/breakdown-raw-materials-tesla...


I heard that much of it for this factory is coming from Mexico: http://fortune.com/2015/08/28/tesla-lithium-mine-mexico/


Lithium is fairly common. The limiting resource for battery production is actually Cobalt.


You should email Musk and make sure he is aware of this problem in case he hasn't thought of it yet.


Now witness the power of this fully operational Gigafactory :).


Holy crap, this factory is three times the size of K-25, which was used to enrich uranium during WWII (and was the largest building in the world during its time).


Question: How much lithium can we rely on being able to extract for the foreseeable future? Do we not have a shortage of any kind?


World lithium reserves 2016: https://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/lithium/mc...

Also enlightening, world lithium reserves known in 2010: https://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/lithium/mc...

Note that reported reserves have increased by ~41% in 6 years (14 million tonnes in 2016 up from 9.9 million in 2010) even as extraction accelerated. Companies have been putting more effort into discovery which has increased known reserves much faster than increasing extraction is drawing them down.

So no, no lithium shortage in the foreseeable future.


So no, no lithium shortage in the foreseeable future.

In addition, as of now cobalt and nickel are actually more valuable: https://waste-management-world.com/a/1-the-lithium-battery-r....

There are efforts underway to make lithium recycling effective at commercial scale, but the current chemistry of it and the current (low) cost of lithium metal means that not much is happening in this domain at the moment. Still, I would expect commercial lithium metal recycling long before before we are even remotely close to exhausting lithium stocks.


Whenever I see people asking this, or worse suggesting outright with great self-assurance that the lithium supply will soon run out, here is my thought process:

1. Musk is a seasoned business leader with 12+ years' experience running SpaceX and Tesla simultaneously, overseeing every aspect of the businesses, so far very successfully.

2. Clearly Musk knows he will need a large lithium supply, since Musk is not literally an idiot, which you would have to be in order to start the largest lithium battery factory in the world without thinking about lithium supply.

3. Clearly Musk investigated this matter.

4. Musk is moving forward as if lithium supply is not a problem.

5. QED, either lithium supply is not a problem, or Musk is investing billions into something that he has no plan for how to make work.

6. One of these seems more likely than the other.


Well, I'm not literally an idiot either. Your fallacy is that I'm worried about Musk's business encountering a shortage of lithium. I'm not. I'm only wondering if a massive worldwide transition to lithium-based batteries triggered by his move might cause or otherwise encounter a lithium shortage in the foreseeable future (say, 40 years from now). This is not a worry about him or his business, this is a worry about the longer-term effects quite beyond that.


At current consumption there are ~430yrs of known reserves, with factoring in projected growth, they will last ~200yrs. I suspect people don't search for lithium deposits with much vigor right now as there isn't much demand for it and the known deposits will last for quite a while (why look for something we run out of in 200yrs, when there are things at 60yrs). At ~250mg/kwh (15-25kg per Tesla car) the current reserves of lithium could make enough batteries for nearly a billion cars without recycling any of them.

Since the packs will be large, uniform and contain expensive metals like cobalt, they will be recycled so I would suspect demand for lithium would go down when the market becomes saturated (probably not in our lifetimes), just like how lead-acid car batteries don't need much new lead as quite a bit of it comes from old batteries.

Between these two points, I don't think lithium is worth worrying about.


I think it's interesting that people have this perspective. Mankind has been around for what - 40,000 years or so?

The industrial era has been around less than 200 years and we have multiple non-renewables that we have or are exhausting the entire planet's supply, and our approach is "well, we probably have 200 years of it, it's not really an issue when there's other stuff running out in 60 years or so".

We are amazingly blind (or wilfully ignorant) to the future beyond our grandchildren.


I don't think its blind/ignorant to think that way for some things.

For things that we are tossing away when we are done with them, as long as we mark where all our dumps are, the future generations should be fine as when they run out of an element, they will be able to mine our dumps. Its not like we are destroying the elements to build things out of them.

We could be nice and somewhat sort/record the trash in our dumps so future generations know where to dig when they need something and be able to get it in reasonable concentrations.


Mankind has been around for what - 40,000 years or so?

The figure piqued my interest. I doubt your argument weighs much on it (nor am I taking a position on it), but when are you measuring from? Some possibilities I thought of:

- 3 million years ago - Stone Age begins

- 1.8–0.2 million years ago - Homo sapiens sapiens emerges

- 13,000 BCE - Animal domestication (pigs)

- 11,500 BCE - Agriculture (rice domestication)


The 40,000 years probably refers to "behaviorally-modern humans", which according to one theory appeared suddenly 50,000 - 60,000 years ago, and according to another theory developed slowly starting 2 million years ago and ended 50,000 years ago. The 50,000 year mark is generally accepted as the latest time when speech and language were developed, though that could have in fact happened earlier.


Thanks for this. Interesting concept. For reference to others, there's a Wikipedia page on the topic:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behavioral_modernity

In order to classify what traits should be included in modern human behavior, it is necessary to define behaviors that are universal among living human groups. Some examples of these human universals are abstract thought, planning, trade, cooperative labor, body decoration, control and use of fire. Along with these traits, humans possess a heavy reliance on social learning.

...

Archaeological evidence of behavioral modernity are:

- burial

- fishing

- figurative art (cave paintings, petroglyphs, dendroglyphs, figurines)

- systematic use of pigment (such as ochre) and jewelry for decoration or self-ornamentation

- Using bone material for tools

- Transport of resources over long distances

- Blade technology

- Diversity, standardization, and regionally distinct artifacts

- Hearths

- Composite tools

Of particular interesting is how they show criteria like abstract thought and planning, which at first blush don't seem very amenable to leaving direct archeological evidence.


I think I was going from "earliest signs of civilization" (i.e. French or Australian cave art, and similarities).

I admit to being surprised by the number for Homo sapiens. I'd have to think it was closer to the 0.2 than the 1.8.

But even then, that'd make it worse.

Even at 13,000 BCE, we're still not doing so well. It can be argued that primitive man didn't have the ability to extract many resources, so it's not comparable, but I don't think that's the case. We shouldn't get a free pass because we have no history of "mass pillage of earthly resources" with which to compare.


> At current consumption there are ~430yrs of known reserves, with factoring in projected growth, they will last ~200yrs.

So, a doubling every 5? 10? years, if the gigafactory is a start of a trend, rather than the last great battery factory?

Those 200 years would then be cut quite drastically!

[ed: whops, misread "projected growth" for "project growth" (ie: growth due to the gigafactory alone. Still, I think the point stands that accelerating demand could change the sustainability of resources.]


Those 200 years supply refers to currently known reserves, which is to say, lithium whose location is known, has been proven to be present at a certain level, and is economically feasible to extract with current technology. There's lots more lithium out there, there's just not much point looking for or proving its presence yet. That "200 years' reserve" is a small fraction of all the lithium available.


It's reasonable to want to know the answer rather than to be content that Elon Musk must know the answer. Asking the question isn't an attack. I found a few reports online.


That is all valid for "is there enough lithium for Musk to make a big profit on this factory?" but is not the same for "is there enough lithium for the foreseeable future?".

There isn't enough oil to power our civilisation for the foreseeable future, but people are still building wells and selling their contents.

There might easily be enough, or it might be easily recyclable but those are perfectly sensible questions to ask that aren't answered by your thought process.


Peak oil has been "foreseen" for decades now, except it hasn't happened yet...


Space X rockets and asteroid mining are next!


At the right price, there is no shortage of lithium capacity. What is in short supply are the reserves of lithium that can be extracted at relatively low cost, which generally come from salt flats in places like Chile; there are few such resources in the world. On the other hand, there is a vast amount of spodumene mineral which can be converted into lithium at a higher cost. And theoretically (say, in 100 years), there is plenty of lithium in the ocean; it would just take a much higher price per pound of lithium to justify extracting it.


Let's say that in the midst of current political climate in the US, if the new administration does succeed in bring back manufacturing jobs (questionable) to the US and take credit for this new momentum, we all should take a step back and give Tesla's Gigafactory its due credit for pioneering this momentum.


I disagree. Toyota and other foreign manufacturers deserve drastically more credit. They pioneered on-shoring for US manufacturing, as a practical solution to several big problems, decades prior.

A US manufacturing renaissance has regularly been touted in the business press for a decade, since it became apparent natural gas was about to become extremely plentiful and cheap. If the Trump Administration succeeds in lowering the corporate income tax rate to ~15%, they'll prompt an accelerated manufacturing expansion in terms of output; an increase in manufacturing jobs will be very subdued but will also likely come with it (it'll be a drop in the bucket compared to job creation spurred eg by the natural gas & oil boom, or renewable energy).

Tesla gets the award for among the best PR when it comes to US manufacturing.


Musk will yet again need to kick those nay sayers butt with sheer awesomness. Maybe when we will have a colony on mars will they start believing.. But probably not.


Does Panasonic or anyone else have preliminary/actual part numbers for 21-70 (aka 2170 or 21700) cells?


Another milestone towards the singularity.


>>The start of mass production is a huge milestone in Tesla’s quest to electrify transportation, and it brings to America a manufacturing industry—battery cells—that’s long been dominated by China, Japan, and South Korea.

Anybody wants to guess how long before Trump claims credit for this?


Musk and Tesla are masters of marketing.

Tech in the Gigafactory and probably much more production and process knowledge for running battery production is from Panasonic.

Nevertheless all positive spin is benefiting Tesla.

If it fails, I'm sure Tesla will spin the failure as Panasonic.


>Musk and Tesla are masters of marketing.

Not particularly. If you do something that a lot of people think is cool they will get behind you. "The product sells itself" is the most fundamental law of advertising.


"People buy what you are, not what you sell". Musk seems to be putting in a genuine best effort at using capital and technology make a better, cooler future, and people are buying it.

It's how you get early adopters on your side, and it's how you build a devoted base of customers.


>Tech in the Gigafactory and probably much more production and process knowledge for running battery production is from Panasonic.

I'm not so sure. Tesla has been applying their "first principles" physics-based optimizations in this area.

One example from the recent Gigafactory tour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ib1KKHGYmLQ&t=6m06s

>Welcome everyone. So what you just walked through was the cathode mixing section. We're now in the coat-and-dry section.

>We receive both our active anode and cathode material as dry powders, however to apply them to our substrates we need them to be liquids. So what we do is take a solvent and mix it with the material to turn it into a solid-liquid slurry. We take that slurry out of those vessels in that last room, pump them up and all the way down to the end, to the last chamber on the ground floor here. There we have this very large roll of aluminum foil that we unwind as we pull it through the oven section on the bottom floor here. We have a coating head, which is very similar to how ink is actually deposited on a piece of paper, and we use that to deposit a very thin layer of slurry onto this metal substrate.

>As it comes towards us, we have several sections of air addition and removal. We use that air at very specific flow rates and temperatures to dry the solvent and evaporate [it] off of the substrate in a very prescribed fashion. By the time it gets to the end here, all the solvent has evaporated off, and we now have this dry solid layer of active material that is stuck onto our metal substrate.

>We take that and we turn it vertical here, go up to our second coating booth. What was the bottom is now the top. We coat that new top section and run it back through the top of the oven in the same fashion. So when we get to the end, we have one very thin piece of metal substrate and active material stuck to both sides of it.

>As the air enters each chamber, and as it leaves, it's picking up solvent from the liquid phase and into the vapor. As all the air leaves, instead of just venting it to the atmosphere carrying all this solvent with it, we combine all those outlet ducts together into one large duct, which you see at the very end of the room when it's horizontal there, which then goes through that wall up to our second floor. We have a solvent recovery system where we scrub that solvent back out of the air (to clean the air), and the air turns right around and comes back through another duct and back into the oven. So the air is in a closed loop and never leaves the building.

>The solvent we just pulled into the liquid phase then comes out to our utility yard, where we treat and clean the solvent, and the solvent itself is sent right back into our mixing room too. So both the air and the solvent are closed loop, never leaving the building.

>This single tool here, this large oven, used to be the largest power consumer in of any part of the factory. But over the past year, Tesla and Panasonic engineers have worked together, and we've been able to re-engineer how this oven operates and how the solvent recovery system operates, and in doing so we've been able to cut the power consumption of the system by about 80%.

>So this is oven 1 of phase 1 of Gigafactory 1. And by investing these resources up-front to optimize these systems, all those savings then propogate to every other oven we have in the future. So this is oven 1 for the whole building, and right here in a few months will be oven 2.

This was already a mature coat-and-dry process designed by Panasonic, and Tesla was able to wring an 80% reduction out of the energy cost of the largest power user in the factory, while closing a material loop and eliminating emissions. All that from "just" conserving the latent heat of evaporation!


> Tesla has been applying their "first principles" physics-based optimizations in this area.

I dunno; what you quote sounds like what any reasonable process engineer would do to optimize this process. There's nothing particularly groundbreaking about it.

For one, you can't "conserve the latent heat of evaporation"; you can of course do heat recovery between the two ends, but again this is not groundbreaking tech. In fact, it was first patented by Edward Green in 1845 under the name "Economizer", which has a nice Wikipedia article about it.

And I'm pretty sure the old Panasonic factory isn't just venting solvent into the atmosphere; that would be illegal essentially everywhere, and it would be a huge waste of money.

Also not convinced they are comparing apples to apples with the 80% figure; obviously a lot of the power consumption here is heat for the drying air, and the old Panasonic factory is not located in a desert with an annual average outside temp. of 19 C (66 F). I'm pretty sure they're using heat pumps (or maybe also just heat exchangers) to exploit the high outside temperature in Nevada to get that decreased power usage. Which is not stupid, but it's also not a Tesla-exclusive revolutionary idea.


>I dunno; what you quote sounds like what any reasonable process engineer would do to optimize this process

I thought the same thing, but of course hindsight is 20/20. The surprising part (if the Tesla employee is to be believed) is that Panasonic hadn't done it before.

I didn't want to get bogged down in gory thermodynamic details, but it sounds like you know what I meant. The latent heat from the oven is conserved by recycling it back into the process air, rather than being wasted by releasing it into the environment and losing it from the system. Latent heat is necessarily transferred in any liquid-gas phase change -- you canna change the laws of physics!

A good solvent recovery system will use the latent heat to re-heat the process air as it exits the recovery system. Ideally there's a sequence of heat pumps, with the first evaporator rejecting heat to the last condenser. This creates what's essentially an active countercurrent heat exchanger.

Since the main function of the oven is to evaporate the solvent, we should expect the condenser will add the same amount of thermal power (as sensible heat) into the return air as the oven dryer is losing (as latent heat). So the system only has to make up for the heat lost through the oven and duct insulation, not the evaporation process extracting heat from the oven. Fortunately any heat pump produces waste heat.

>it's also not a Tesla-exclusive revolutionary idea

People expecting any "Tesla-exlusive" idea are going to be disappointed. There's nothing magical about Tesla, and there's no special laws of physics that apply only to them. A good idea is a good idea.


Any more sources of info like this? In particular I found Musk's comments about the machine that builds the machines and designing the factory like a system on a chip the most fascinating. I would love for a research paper on designing a factory like a system on a chip.


Musk's comments, for those who haven't seen them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvVlNkL8f_o&t=2h20m48s


It would be interesting to see the details of the partnership between Panasonic and Tesla. There must be some revenue sharing as well as technology/patent sharing in the deal. Panasonic is committed to investing $1.6B of the $5B total cost for the Gigafactory ( http://fortune.com/2016/05/20/panasonic-investment-tesla-bat... )


If it fails, I'm sure Tesla will spin the failure as Panasonic.

It's a huge investment. If it "fails", Tesla won't exist to do much spinning.


Meanwhile, Tesla has missed on vehicle deliveries for the third time this year (out of four quarters). The stock is, obviously, up over 4% on this great news.

http://www.insidermonkey.com/blog/tesla-motors-inc-tsla-miss...


Perhaps the market is cheering a 50.7% increase in deliveries from 2015 to 2016? I find it hard to believe that the market thinks it's important for Tesla to hit predictions when they're growing so quickly.


Amusingly, the article you linked titled "Time To Sell TSLA Stock?" itself links an article by the same author titled "Buy Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA) Stock Now Or Regret It Later."


Dig a bit deeper. AMIGOBULLS is the publisher, not author. Original articles are written by two different[0] authors[1].

[0] http://amigobulls.com/articles/tesla-motors-inc-misses-on-de...

[1] http://amigobulls.com/articles/buy-tesla-motors-inc-tsla-sto...


Whatever opinion you already have, you can cite this guy. Modern journalism ftw.


...you get that at two given points in the history of a stock, it might be a must-buy and a must-sell, right?


This isn't correct. These articles were posted 8 days apart from one another with nothing but positive news inbetween. That's not going to shift TSLA from a must-buy to a must-sell...

What OP missed was that the author is actually another website that just reposts all of their content elsewhere. The originals are here[0][1]

[0] http://amigobulls.com/articles/buy-tesla-motors-inc-tsla-sto...

[1] http://amigobulls.com/articles/tesla-motors-inc-misses-on-de...


That's quite the cynical comment. I can only assume from your comment that you think this company doesn't deserve to have good news.

Some of us wants to have a future where electric car is the norm, rather than the exception and Tesla has arguably brought this possibility to our generation by itself.

I, for one, welcome this news and wish them the best.


They missed by like 4.5%. And on other forecasts such as battery integration they are 2 years ahead...


Plus, they didn't miss on production. They missed on deliveries. From a quick read of the article, it looks like most of the miss has been produced and is currently in transit or waiting to be put in transit. That bodes well for their first quarter target.


The 2016 forecast started at 100,000, then was decreased to 80,000-90,000, which was missed by 4.5%. There were fewer Teslas sold in Europe in 2016 than 2015, when only the Model S existed.

There are red flags here and there, if you choose to consider them.


Of course there are red flags -- even Elon says that the stock valuation has a lot of growth expectations baked into it. Even if they hit the bigger number, there would be plenty of red flags: risk of Model 3 production in volume, risk of S/X sales not growing, risk of needing to raise money, risk of Solar City, etc etc.


In economics and trading, you learn that future (expected) price = present price. So expectations are already priced in, whatever those expectations are. Bad news doesn't necessarily lower the stock price, and good news doesn't necessarily raise the stock price. In the end, it's about demand for the stock, trading dynamics, and people buy if they think the future of the company is greater than expectations, no matter how good/bad the current mood is.


Yep, they missed the mark on delivering 80,000 vehicles. By ~2700 vehicles. After dumping a key vendor of auto pilot hardware and retooling in the middle of the quarter.


Stock prices move based on derivatives of derivatives. The stock price increased because investors were expecting them to miss on deliveries by a lot, instead they missed by a little. Even though the miss was bad news, the scale of the miss was good news.




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