Where will Tesla build its future Gigafactories?
In 2017, Elon Musk said that Tesla would eventually build 10-20 Gigafactories around the world. So, the current score is three down (Nevada, New York, Shanghai), seventeen to go. In a recent interview on the Third Row podcast, Musk hinted at plans to build a Gig on every continent: “The biggest problem we have to solve right now is having production on each continent, because it’s insane to be making cars in California [and] shipping them to Europe and Asia.”
Above: Tesla's concept rendering that showcases the design aesthetic of Germany's Gigafactory once it's completed (Twitter: Elon Musk)
Where will the next Gigafactories be, and will they evolve into Terafactories, Petafactories, Exafactories…what comes next?
The next addition to the Teslan Empire will be Gigafactory Berlin—a giga-gauntlet thrown down in the heart of the German auto industry’s territory. Construction was announced in November 2019, and ground was broken in June 2020. Last week, Elon Musk tweeted an artist’s conception of a gleaming Giga Berlin. Production is expected to begin in July 2021. That’s four.
Tesla has announced that the next facility—this one upgraded to a Terafactory—will be located somewhere in the middle of the US. At this stage, Tesla is considering two locations—Austin, Texas or Tulsa, Oklahoma. Tesla hopes to be producing Model Ys at the new plant by the end of this year—that’s an awesomely ambitious goal, but, in light of Gigafactory Shanghai’s one-year construction, it might just be possible. The Terafactory is to begin cranking out Cybertrucks late next year. That’s five.
That’s all the locations that are in the construction or planning stages. However, there’s no shortage of speculation among Tesla-watchers as to where future facilities might someday appear. A recent article in Inverse discusses some of the possibilities, including one that Elon Musk has hinted at and another that’s just a vague rumor.
Recently, a Twitterer asked Musk, “Will you expand Tesla mega factories in Asia outside China?” Musk replied, “Yeah, but first we need to finish Giga Berlin and a second US Giga to serve eastern half of North America.”
Above: What's inside these giant factories? Take a look inside Tesla's newest Gigafactory in Shanghai (YouTube: Jason Yang)
That “yeah” is all we know at this point about plans for a second Asian Gig, but Inverse speculated that Tesla might build a facility near sources of battery supplies in South Korea (LG Chem) or Japan (Panasonic). To date, Tesla sales in Japan have been negligible—a recent Bloomberg article (via the japan times) reported that only 1,378 imported EVs of all brands were sold there in 2019 (Tesla does not disclose Japanese sales figures). It’s a sunnier scene in South Korea, where sales jumped to 4,075 units in 2019 (no doubt mainly due to the release of the Korean version of my Tesla book).
Entering the realm of pure rumor and speculation, some have floated the idea of a Gigafactory in the British Isles. Surprisingly, the current UK government has been generally supportive of EVs, and the country is emerging as a major growth market. As Inverse reports, the rumor mill cranked up in June after a couple of suggestive reports. Property Week reported that the British government was looking for four million square feet of industrial space for a Tesla Gigafactory (why the government would be involved in Tesla’s property search was not explained), and that one rumored location was the Gravity industrial park in Somerset. The Times reported that Musk made a brief visit to the UK via his private jet, during which he toured the Gravity site.
Argument in favor of a UK Gigafactory: the UK and Ireland are the only European markets for right-hand-drive cars, and in February, Musk said building both LH- and RH-drive cars was “a mega pain in the ass.” Argument against: during the announcement of Giga Berlin last November, Musk said that the turmoil resulting from Brexit would make production in the UK too risky.
Tesla continues to set the tone in the EV industry, not only in technical terms, but also semantically—other companies have started referring to their own planned manufacturing plants as “Gigafactories.” Should Tesla have trademarked the term? Maybe not. Back in 2017, when Elon spoke of building 10 or 20 Tesla Gigafactories, he also estimated that it would take 100 Gigafactory-size facilities to support the world’s new electromobility/sustainable energy ecosystem. Tesla can’t do this alone, and never planned to. Wherever Tesla sites its future facilities, the ultimate measure of success for the company, and for Musk’s Master Plan, will be how many other companies follow its lead.