Few will disagree with the fact that Tesla is the biggest manufacturer in the electric vehicle industry. The American company has been taking huge steps in order to make sure that there is a proper infrastructure in place to ensure that the manufacturing rate does not hamper their plans. The biggest aspect of manufacturing an electric vehicle is the production of the electric motors and the lithium-ion battery packs and this is where the discussion on Tesla’s Gigafactories begins.
Inside Look Of Shanghai Gigafactory Production Line
Tesla has always had a long-term planning process when it comes to the manufacturing of their cars. For this reason, most Teslas are often overdesigned, where a part of the entire potential of the car is available initially, and the remaining performance potential can be unlocked by buying performance upgrades over time. This gives their customers a sense of renewal, where they can get their car upgraded without changing any physical components, thus ensuring the longevity of products.
Despite this, the demand for newer models of Tesla is at an all-time high, which means that production must be as efficient as possible. The Gigafactory production line has been one of the most important aspects of manufacturing for Tesla, and it is now being taken to the next level.
The Gigafactory in Shanghai is the third Gigafactory built by Tesla, after the Gigafactory 1 (producing batteries) in Nevada and Gigafactory 2 (producing solar tiles) in Buffalo, New York. The plan is to have the Shanghai factory manufacture batteries for Tesla models, along with the final assemblies of Tesla Model 3 and Model Y. The aim of the American company is to eventually have 500,000 models rolling out of this factory per year, although the current figure stands at 200,000, according to the latest reports. This number is still impressive, as it means that 4,000 new cars are being completed every week.
Built-in 2019, this Gigafactory started production in December 2019 with the final assembly of Tesla Model 3. The numbers at the end of the latest quarter suggest that the 200,000 annual production mark has been crossed. This, despite the recent obstacles of the COVID19 pandemic situation. Once the Model Y and battery productions begin, this Gigafactory is estimated to have production rates that 2.5 times the current value. The factory is mainly powered by using solar energy through the solar panel roof, which is also manufactured by Tesla.
The Alien Dreadnought Factory
A recent video released by Tesla China shows a time-lapse of the production line inside the Shanghai Gigafactory, and it has amazed its viewers. High levels of automation are visible, with as many as eight robotic machines seen working on a single model simultaneously in one of the shots. The available manpower in the factory has been employed only for the supervision and maintenance of these machines, while some finishing touches also require human interaction. All these points in the direction of Elon Musk’s vision of having a factory that looks like ‘an alien dreadnought’, essentially, a battleship.
Musk is known to be a visionary, and one of his aims has been for Tesla to focus on manufacturing first, and then build factories accordingly. He wants the public to view their factories as a product itself – a machine that builds machines. With state-of-the-art automation, these Gigafactories are supposed to ramp up production levels at a staggering pace, and he intends to build more of these as well.
The idea of these alien dreadnought factories was first introduced by Tesla in their mega factory in Fremont, California. While it was not exactly what Musk had visualized, it was supposed to be a ‘version 0.5’ of the intended plan. Musk said that by version 3, they would have factories that require zero human interference with the production and assembly aspects. People employed to work in these factories will only be supervising the machines and will handle maintenance issues. If this video is to be considered as evidence, it can be said that Tesla is moving closer to this version 3 idea. It is also being said that once the production of Model Y cars begins in the Shanghai Gigafactory next year, version 3 will be closer than ever.
Future Gigafactory Plans
Tesla is already in different stages of getting new Gigafactories ready in various locations across the globe. The Gigafactory 4 located in Berlin is under construction and is expected to being production in July 2021. It will be producing Model 3 and Model Y cars, similar to what the Shanghai Gigafactory is currently doing. There are plans to build a Gigafactory in Central America (most probably Texas), which will be responsible for the production of Model Y and Cybertruck.
Plans are also in place for a non-China Asian factory, perhaps in South Korea or Japan. While Musk has confirmed plans for this, the final location is still unknown. There are also rumors about a British Gigafactory, but this has not been confirmed by the company.
With all these plans for building newer factories and thousands of new cars every year, the availability of resources is going to be a major concern for Tesla, especially when it comes to lithium reserves. The electric car may not harm the atmosphere throughout its entire life, but once discarded, lithium-ion batteries become a major hazard for the land. While Tesla plans to have 100% recycling of their vehicle components, that figure is still far from being breached, and it remains to be seen if Tesla, in fact, manages to implement what they have promised.