Just a few months after Tesla held a grand opening event for its gigantic Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada, the automaker this week reached an even more important milestone. Earlier today, following months of round-the-clock construction, Tesla began mass producing its long-touted higher-density battery cells that will ultimately find their way into Tesla’s mass market Model 3, not to mention Tesla’s growing lineup of energy storage products.
Tesla’s press release reads in part:
Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy through increasingly affordable electric vehicles in addition to renewable energy generation and storage. At the heart of these products are batteries. Today at the Gigafactory, Tesla and Panasonic began mass production of lithium-ion battery cells, which will be used in Tesla’s energy storage products and Model 3.
Production of 2170 cells for qualification started in December and today, production begins on cells that will be used in Tesla’s Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2 energy products. Model 3 cell production will follow in Q2 and by 2018, the Gigafactory will produce 35 GWh/year of lithium-ion battery cells, nearly as much as the rest of the entire world’s battery production combined.
While Tesla has a long history of missing deadlines, progress on the Gigafactory not only appears to be on track, but is seemingly moving along at a faster clip than anticipated. Indeed, Tesla a few months back set a rather ambitious goal of reaching an annual manufacturing capacity of 500,000 cars by 2018. While many critics were quick to scoff at the goal, Tesla has spared no expense with respect to construction efforts as part of its broader effort to roll out cars much more quickly.
With the Gigafactory already churning out batteries, the looming question now is whether or not the company can actually begin to deliver Model 3 vehicles to customers by late 2017. Though the Model S and the Model X launches were both subject to prolonged delays, Tesla has been adamant that the Model 3 will ship on time because it’s a decidedly less complex car to manufacture. Additionally, Elon Musk likes to remind skeptics that the efficiency of Tesla’s manufacturing processes has improved dramatically over the past few years.
As it stands now, Tesla has said that progress on the Gigafactory is at about 30%. Impressively, by the time the factory is operating at 100% capacity, the company boasts that it will be capable of manufacturing more lithium-ion batteries in one year “than were produced worldwide in 2013.”
In fact, Elon Musk in 2015 boasted: “Cells will be going through [the Gigafactory] like bullets from a machine gun. In fact, the exit rate of cells will be faster than bullets from a machine gun.”