The Tesla Gigafactory is key to the automaker’s planned production ramp up to 500,000 cars per year by 2018. It is expected to both significantly reduce the cost of Tesla’s battery packs, which will enable Tesla to reach the $35,000 price point for the Model 3, and to secure a large supply of battery cells.
Those two products, battery cells and battery packs, were until now the only products expected to be manufactured at the factory.
We now learn that Tesla plans to also manufacture drive units at the plant. With vehicle battery packs, the automaker will be closer to producing its entire next generation powertrains at what is expected to be the largest factory in the world by footprint.
Tesla is now listing six Gigafactory jobs for Drive Systems manufacturing and control systems engineers – positions that were previously reserved only for jobs in Fremont, California.
“Tesla is seeking a highly motivated Manufacturing Engineer for our Gigafactory in Reno Sparks Nevada to develop new processes and high volume automation equipment for Tesla Drive Unit assembly lines.”
We recently reported that the company started work on new sections of the Gigafactory. Tesla is not likely to be short on space at the location for the foreseeable future and construction is still going at an impressive pace.
In the job listings, Tesla makes no mention of the models that will be equipped with the drive units coming out of the new production lines. They could be geared solely to manufacture third generation drivetrains for the Model 3, and eventually the Model Y, or Tesla could move the entire drivetrain manufacturing of the Model S and X, but the latter sounds less likely.
Tesla designed the Model 3 to be relatively easy to manufacture in order to facilitate a ramp up in production. Those design improvements might be easier to implement for the drive units at the Gigafactory where the company will also be producing the battery packs for the Model 3.
It offers more opportunities to streamline the process with the possibility for the entire powertrain being produced at the same plant.
Either way, the bulk of vehicle manufacturing would still happen at the Fremont factory where stamping, body-in-white, paint and final assembly are already taking the most space and workforce.
On Friday, we reached out to Tesla for a comment on the new ‘Drive Systems production lines’ at the Gigafactory, but we were not able to get a comment.
The move to build new drive systems production lines in Neveda is particularly interesting in light of the news that Tesla plans to double in size its factory in Fremont.
Tesla releases new ‘master plan’ to double the size of the Fremont factory to support Model 3 production
Earlier this year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that he sees a path for 1 million cars per year to be manufactured in Fremont.
While the statement was met with skepticism at first since the Fremont factory was only producing roughly 500,000 cars per year at its peak when being operated by Toyota and GM, it makes more sense now that we know that Tesla plans to both expand the plant in Fremont and move some of the drive systems manufacturing to Nevada.
The official deadline for Model 3 parts for both suppliers and internal teams is set for July 1st, 2017, but Musk admitted that it’s not a deadline that is likely to be met, which is why Tesla is guiding for the first Model 3 deliveries in “late 2017”.
We don’t know yet what those new drive unit production lines will look like, but we do know how they make their current drive units. Here’s an interesting video about the process: