If there is any company that has succeeded in capturing the public imagination, it is Tesla Motors. The electric vehicle (EV) and battery maker’s charismatic CEO Elon Musk has presented a compelling if not dazzling vision of a future of decarbonized electricity and transportation, even if customers must sometimes wait months to years to purchase these products.
Today a portion of Tesla’s vision became reality, with Panasonic and Tesla beginning production of their “2170” cylindrical lithium-ion batteries at their “Gigafactory” in Reno, Nevada. These cells will be used in Tesla’s Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2 battery products, as well as its Model 3 EVs.
The 2170 cell was jointly designed and engineered by Tesla and Panasonic, which operates the Gigafactory. The companies state that the 2170 will offer high performance at a low production cost in a form factor ideally suited to both the battery products and EVs.
Tesla notes that production for qualification began in December at the Gigafactory, which when complete will be the largest factory on earth. The mammoth building is being completed in phases so that production can being inside finished sections and expand later, and by 2018 the company expects the facility to be making 35 gigawatt-hours per year of battery cells. This is nearly equal to the current global combined battery production capacity.
At peak production, Tesla expects the Gigafactory to employ 6,500 workers.
In addition to the Nevada Gigafactory, Tesla is now in possession SolarCity’s solar cell and module Gigafactory in upstate New York, through its acquisition of the company. The Buffalo Gigafactory will also be run by Panasonic, and Tesla has forecast that production will begin in the summer of 2017.