For the most part, Tesla’s Gigafactory has looked the same from the outside since the beginning of the year. The first phase consists of 4 sections of about 475,000 square feet for a total of 1.9 million square feet. The final version of the building, which should be completed by the end of the decade, is expected to have 13 million square feet of manufacturing and work space. It should be enough to become the biggest building on earth by footprint and Tesla plans for the factory to produce at least as much battery capacity as the entire world production of li-ion cells.

Now we learn that Tesla is planning to add a new section to the plant with an estimated completion date by the end of the year, according a building permit recently issued to Tesla.

The new building permit is for the expansion of the area ‘D’ into the area ‘E’ and it is valued at $63 million – making it the job with the biggest valuation of any project related to the Gigafactory to date.

The picture above is a bird-eye view of the plant with the new section going on the south end of the building (right on the picture). Each section has its own foundation which makes the whole building more resistant to earthquakes and other natural disasters.

The job with the second highest valuation, $51 million, is for the installation of ‘battery cell manufacturing equipement’, which is expected to be completed by July 20th, according to the building permit.

Here are the two permits in question via Buildzoom:

Based on the permit, it looks like the battery cell manufacturing could be ready just in time for the ‘Grand Opening’ event, which is scheduled for July 29th. For the past few weeks, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been building up expectations for the event to be something quite special.

While the Gigafactory has been producing battery packs since last year, the real achievement is expected to be the start of battery cell manufacturing, which should lower the cost and introduce a new 20700 cell format to Tesla’s lineup.

As of now, Tesla and its strategic partner at the Gigafactory have been saying that battery cell manufacturing will start “by the end of the year”. We contacted Tesla to know if the estimated date of completion for the battery cell manufacturing equipment could indicate that it will be ready by the Grand Opening event or maybe before the fourth quarter – we will update if we get an official answer.

During a conference call with analysts yesterday, Elon briefly talked about battery cell manufacturing at the plant:

“The exit rate of cells from Gigafactory will be faster than bullets from a machine gun.”

The comment is in reference to his new outlook on manufacturing which he boiled down with his physics first principles approach. He sees any manufacturing output of plant as a simple equation: volume times density times velocity – with the velocity being “faster than bullets from a machine gun” in the case of battery cells at the Gigafactory.

He also recently referred to Panasonic’s manufacturing equipment at the factory as the most impressive machines there, but he also said that Tesla was not able to show them during the factory tour. Maybe they could make an exception for the Gigafactory opening event?

We recently reported on Panasonic “gearing up for significant growth” at the Gigafactory  –  the company hosted a special invitation-only hiring event on location this week for “positions in advanced manufacturing”.

We will keep you updated with the progress at the factory as Tesla adds a new section and ramps up manufacturing.

All pictures and footage by Joshua Mcdonald from Nevada Tailwheel commissioned by Electrek for our June Gigafactory Update.

 

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