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Tesla Gigafactory 1 building permits show slowdown in structure expansion, focus on interior work

Tesla Gigafactory 1, the company’s giant battery factory in the middle of the Nevada desert, is still only ~30% completed and the building hasn’t expanded throughout the last year.

Now a report on building permits shows that the automaker and its partners are focusing on building new facilities inside the current plant instead of expanding the size of the actual building.

Buildzoom reports that the company obtained 112 new construction permits in 2017 despite not expanding the structure:

“Despite having completed much of the structural work prior to 2017, the project clipped along, adding more than a hundred permits for a total of 255 permits by the end of 2017. These 112 new construction permits represent costs of $379.9 million of the $1.3 billion filed to date.”

To be clear, the cost is only based on the building permits and doesn’t really represent Tesla’s investment in the factory.

The company reported a capitalized costs of $2.85 billion in Gigafactory 1 by the end of September 2017, which is the last reported period.

The current structure has a 1.9 million square-foot footprint. Including several levels, the factory currently is about 4.9 million square feet of operational space. This represents only ~30 percent of the planned completed Gigafactory, according to Tesla. Therefore, most of the recent work has been in and around the current structure.

Buildzoom listed some of the more interesting new constructions found in the building permits:

  1. A metrology lab (November 8, 2017)
  2. A brazing oven to automate metal joining (November 8, 2017)
  3. $179,850 for a hazmat building addendum (November 1, 2017)
  4. $13.7M for hot oil skid systems to store and transfer heat fluids (March 13, 2017)
  5. $10.8M for air separation yards to separate atmospheric air into elemental components
  6. $2.6M for chiller yards to remove heat from liquids

They also note that a significant portion of the permits obtained in 2017 (50 out of 112) were project addendums, which means that they are making changes to previous permits filed for the project.

Electrek’s Take

That’s not exactly surprising since Tesla has changed its plans for the factory on several occasions.

Originally, the plant was supposed to produce 35 GWh of battery cells and 50 GWh of battery packs. The company later claimed to have found ways to improve efficiency and increase production capacity to 105 GWh of battery cells and 150 GWh of battery packs within the same structure.

More recently, Tesla had to make several changes to its Model 3 battery module production lines after claiming that they got burned by a supplier who failed to deliver on two sections. Tesla is now waiting on a production line built at its automation group in Germany, which needs to be disassembled and moved to Gigafactory 1.

They are currently producing several products at the factory, including Model 3 drive units, Model 3 battery packs, Powerwalls and Powerpacks, but all those products need to be produced in much higher volume in order for Tesla to match the demand.

In many ways, Gigafactory 1 is absolutely essential to Tesla’s growth.

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