Tesla’s cars have captured the imagination and excitement of the American consumer since the moonshot company began. The sleek lines and sophisticated technology make the models a new model for the future of driving.
Beneath the physical manufacturing of these automobiles is a mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. This is being achieved through a rapidly expanding line of electric vehicles, and a recently expanded array of retail solar panels and roofing. Founded in 2003 by a group of engineers with the shared belief that electric vehicles could be better, quicker and more fun to drive than their gas-powered counterparts, Tesla is staking claim to what they see as an infinitely scalable world of zero-emissions. This demands a whole lot of battery power and with the launch of project Roadrunner, Tesla is taking that power into their own hands. The project includes plans to build a battery research and manufacturing facility in Fremont, California not far from their auto manufacturing plant that employs 10,000 workers. This new addition would bring on 470 workers operating around the clock at 100 per shift, in a facility the company says they can build in just three months.
While Tesla currently has what they call gigafactories in Nevada and China, with plans to open new ones in Germany, and Texas or Oklahoma, they’ve been steadily expanding their Fremont auto plant and buying up satellite facilities nearby. They have got battery power on the brain, with a dynamic plan of vertical integration and an application filed with the city to expand their small-scale battery operation. “There’s significant efficiencies by having as much as possible and similar product lines under the same roof,” says Tesla’s chief financial officer, Zachary Kirkhorn. Automotive batteries are the most expensive components of electric vehicles and the Roadrunner project supports the vertical integration that CEO Elon Musk is intent upon building. Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, says Tesla is now fully developing its own proprietary battery cells with longer ranges “and potentially lower cost.”
Tesla has long worked with Panasonic Corp., the main partner in their giant battery factory in Reno and they also have contracts with South Korea’s LG Chem Ltd and China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd. What those relationships will look like once Tesla takes battery power in-house is uncertain, but there is no shortage of need. As electric vehicle battery expert Jack Rickard, points out, Tesla is “not just the largest producer of batteries in the world, they’re the largest consumer of batteries in the world.”
Tesla’s website explains: “By bringing cell production in-house, Tesla manufactures batteries at the volumes required to meet production goals, while creating thousands of jobs.” Their goal is to create an entirely sustainable energy ecosystem. In the meantime, they continue to maintain the curiosity of the world with a recent announcement from Musk saying they will give a tour of Tesla’s battery cell production on Sept. 15, the tentative date for what they are calling Battery Day. With many events turning online to be live-streamed due to the pandemic, Musk is insisting on a live audience for Battery Day which he promises will be one of the most exciting days in Tesla’s history. He says: “I think it’s going to be a very compelling story that we have to present. I think it’s going to actually blow people’s minds. It blows my mind, and I know it. So it’s going to be pretty cool.”