How Tesla's Gigafactory will remove doubts about battery production
Tesla’s plan all along has been to mass-produce EVs to accelerate widespread adoption as quickly as possible and accelerate the future of low-carbon mobility. However, some quick math will tell you that 350,000 Tesla vehicles (the targeted volume of Tesla’s upcoming $30,000-$40,000 Model E) with 60 kWh of battery capacity apiece adds up to a phenomenal amount of lithium-ion battery production capacity. In order for the EV industry to truly take off, it is no secret that batteries will need to be produced en masse and at lower costs. To that end, Tesla has unveiled plans to build a massive “Gigafactory,” a battery production facility that would bring in raw materials and put out finished battery packs in huge volumes.
Initial estimates put the output of the Gigafactory at 50 GWh of battery packs per year, which is greater than current global levels of lithium-ion production. All that manufacturing capacity will surely require its own dirty power plant, thus making Teslas not as clean as they appear, right?
Wrong. CEO Elon Musk is a big proponent of solar energy, and he is truly committed to creating a sustainable future. To support his vision, the Gigafactory will be powered largely by nearby wind and solar power that will be constructed specifically for the purpose of powering the factory (no doubt using Tesla battery systems to compensate for the intermittent nature of these systems, though the site will be somewhere with excellent solar resources). So that battery riding under the floor of your Tesla could be the most carbon-neutral component in the entire vehicle.
The production of batteries using renewable energy is a brilliant move by Tesla, one that will hopefully set an example for the rest of the industry.
Tesla also has an answer for the other electric vehicles on the market as well as for their own batteries prior to completion of the Gigafactory. Tesla’s internal study of Model S showed that the carbon emissions resulting from production of the battery pack will be offset by the vehicle’s tremendous efficiency after just 10,000 miles of driving.
The full results of the study will be out soon, but the initial indications prove that the production of lithium-ion batteries isn’t as environmentally devastating as critics make it out to be. This result looks good for makers of other EVs as well; if the Model S and its massive battery pack can offset the battery manufacturing emissions in fewer miles than most people drive in a year, then no doubt the carbon footprint of other EV batteries is also not nearly as large as critics claim.
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