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?
Now you know your true lord to bow down...
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 . I wouldn't be surprised if the Gigafactory is heavily automated as well.
Elon is very smart, indeed.
(can we admire running SpaceX & Tesla and being impressive at SolarCity, OpenAI concurrently, or is that fanboyism?)
edit: ok, the article 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.
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, ...
I could keep going but you get the idea. Jobs create more jobs which create more jobs.
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.
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 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.
Taking a wiring harness;
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
I don't understand why it takes so much labor. I would have thought automation to be massive.
If you divide that by 6,500 employees supporting the manufacturing, it comes to about 385,000 batteries produced per employee per year.
So what is the biggest labor item?
And even if Tesla does end up going kaput, the factory shell may very well be a mecca for urban explorers. :)
Point is: building's big.
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.
> a diamond-shaped factory of outlandish proportions
I'm not seeing a diamond shape anywhere. It's all very rectangular to me.
"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.
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.
> Giga is derived from the greek word meaning "giant"
They are just cool words :)
it will be the largest when completed. it's a long way from a 530m^2 footprint right now.
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:
Top producing countries, US is #8:
* Clayton Valley is ~3.5 hours from Tesla's Gigafactory.
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.
What extraction methods are you referring to? The Sileach method that Lithium Australia began piloting this year? That still isn't commercially viable.
Although interestingly, US production isn't far from the factory and has an undisclosed volume, not strictly the 8th largest
Also enlightening, world lithium reserves known in 2010:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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:
- 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
- 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 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.
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.]
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.
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.
Anybody wants to guess how long before Trump claims credit for this?
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.
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.
It's how you get early adopters on your side, and it's how you build a devoted base of customers.
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!
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 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.
It's a huge investment. If it "fails", Tesla won't exist to do much spinning.
What OP missed was that the author is actually another website that just reposts all of their content elsewhere. The originals are here
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.
There are red flags here and there, if you choose to consider them.