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Tesla and Panasonic Have Reached an Agreement On the Gigafactory 95

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-giga-or-go-home dept.
cartechboy writes: Tesla's been pretty quiet regarding its upcoming gigafactory lately, but that's about to change. It seems the Silicon Valley startup has reached an agreement with Panasonic in regards to the gigafactory, and Panasonic's going to end up having skin in the game. While the electronics giant was originally skeptical of Tesla's battery factory, it now isn't just on board, it's actually going to participate in the construction of this new facility. It's reported that Panasonic will invest 20 billion to 30 billion yen (194 million to $291 million at current exchange rates), and supply fabrication machinery necessary for cell production. That means Pansonic could end up footing the bill for $1 billion of the total $5 billion anticipated investment required for the gigafactory to get off the ground. If things continue to move forward, the Gigafactory should be online by the end of 2017.
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Tesla and Panasonic Have Reached an Agreement On the Gigafactory

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  • Will it be that much bigger than the other factories out there? Or is it just marketing that everyone regurgitates?
    • by i kan reed (749298) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @01:28PM (#47559491) Homepage Journal

      The point, at least according to Musk, is that no one was actually competeting on economies of scale with respect to batteries. His allegation is that his cars need it, and everyone else dependent on rechargables can benefit too.

      As to the truth of the matter, the number of people both qualified to understand the question properly(industrial engineers with expertise in battery manufacture) and the time to investigate the situation, probably already work for one of the companies.

      None are journalists. So we get to eat our press releases and like it.

      • by timeOday (582209) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @01:44PM (#47559617)
        Which part do you find suspect? Tesla wants to make a major launch of a $35K all-electric car, which will require a huge number of batteries, above and beyond the current supply. The word "allegation" sounds as if you think the new Telsa model won't use batteries? Or that there's already enough production to support the new Tesla model, presumably going straight into a huge hole in the ground? Or what?
        • I say allegation because my own information regarding international battery production capacity is limited, and I wasn't in any position to deny the GP's suggestion of a marketing agenda.

        • by rtb61 (674572)

          Still a hugely high risk proposition in the continually updating battery field. A major battery break through of substantially different technology will cripple that investment. Global research on battery technology has never been higher, a bit of Government focus via forced patent sharing and fiscal contribution could push it along even faster.

      • Will this factory battery be able to replace my car's lead-acid wonder? My car's battery has survived 7 subzero winters of -20F and 7 100F summers, and occasionally being drained when we forgot to turn off the headlights.

      • by lucien86 (917502)

        The allegation is true. It doesn't take a genius to work it out. - The problem with electric cars is that they are too expensive, and most or all of that extra cost is in the batteries. Cheaper and bigger batteries with a smaller & lighter physical footprint = cheaper electric cars. Simple!

    • by Mr D from 63 (3395377) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @01:30PM (#47559501)
      Its much bigger than a megafactory, that's all I can tell you.
      • by erice (13380) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @01:42PM (#47559603) Homepage

        Its much bigger than a megafactory, that's all I can tell you.

        Yes, but is it 1000 times bigger or 1024 times bigger? That's the important part!

        • by Game Genie (656324) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @01:50PM (#47559649)
          1000. 1024 would be a Gibifactory.
          • by AikonMGB (1013995) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @01:59PM (#47559709) Homepage

            Actually, a gibifactory would be ~1073.74 megafactories; you are mixing scales :) </pendantry>

          • by Kremmy (793693)
            That would be an example of retroactive continuity.
            The standards people being MAD because their SI prefixes were being used 'incorrectly'.
            But the fact remains, bits and bytes were never metric units to begin with.
            • by Splab (574204)

              Thank god for that, imagine having to deal with imperial bits and bytes vs. metric bits and bytes!

            • So? They weren't SI units, but they used SI prefixes (wrongly.) Now the SI has made SI units based on the old ones that do conform. They even threw in some binary units for the times that they are actually useful. You're just pissed because it turns out people respect the SI more they do grumpy old computer geeks.

              • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

                The problem is the vast amount of computer code and documentation that uses kilobyte=1024. In fact even today most memory manufacturers use the power of 2 notation. Pick a random datasheet for a DRAM chip, a microcontroller, an EEPROM or flash memory and I guarantee they will use powers of 2 and the "old" words like gigabit or the "MB" suffix.

                It would have made a lot more sense to define new words for powers of 10. Kibibyte = 1000 bytes etc. Only hard drive manufacturers would have been mildly annoyed, unti

                • That defeats the entire purpose of the SI. The prefixes are fixed. They have definite meaning, and that meaning is constant through all units. All the units have the same base. Any violation of that and we might as well be using Imperial.

                  So no, it wouldn't 'make more sense.' The SI did the only thing they could. They adopted the units, and even went out of their way to make new prefixes to cover the binary byte use cases.
                  Yeah, it means a lot of old documentation is now wrong. But there's only one way forwar

        • Yes, but is it 1000 times bigger or 1024 times bigger? That's the important part!

          I'm not sure we're familiar with the size of the Ancient Greek Gigantes with such precision.

        • by quenda (644621)

          Yes, but is it 1000 times bigger or 1024 times bigger? That's the important part!

          Thats what I keep telling the USB standards committee.
          A micro-B connector should be 15 nanometres wide. But they whine that this would cause mechanical problems.

    • cos the factory makes cars that run on 1.21 gigawatts at 80mph.

      • by TWX (665546)
        Good. Then it won't accidently time-travel when it's borrowed to attempt to escape from terrorists that are unhappy about their pinball machine...
      • by mdsolar (1045926)
        jigawatts
    • by compro01 (777531) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @02:01PM (#47559731)

      According to Tesla, it will have as much production capacity as all current li-ion battery factories combined.

      The giga does have some meaning, as the factory has a planned production of 35 gigawatt-hours of batteries per year.

      • by quenda (644621)

        According to Tesla, it will have as much production capacity as all current li-ion battery factories combined.

        So, are there currently a billion factories?

      • According to Tesla, it will have as much production capacity as all current li-ion battery factories combined.

        The giga does have some meaning, as the factory has a planned production of 35 gigawatt-hours of batteries per year.

        This is a great investment, Robotics galore, people only for telephone and emails. And the best part, just when the site gets to be profitable, new technology will come along and make that investment a major flawed decision.

    • by TWX (665546)
      I suspect that the name is also a bit of an homage to Back to the Future, but given that Musk is of South African origin and didn't move to North America until three years after the movie came out, I'd like to hear it from the horse's mouth to be sure.

      It would also make sense that since SI prefixes are fairly well known and since Giga- is the largest that most consumers are familiar with and associate as being large, it's a way for them to name a plant so that it has obvious technological associations, w
      • I imagine Terafactory would only cause more confusion between tera and terra.

        • by Garfong (1815272)

          Given Tesla's eco-friendly marking, this would probably be a bonus for a TeraFactory.

        • by Immerial (1093103)
          And even more confusion for folks from Boston. They would wonder why they would make a Terrahfactory... it's not even close to Halloween yet!
          • by TWX (665546)
            Given how many residents of Boston are already scared of the places in contention for the new factory, I don't see a problem with this...
      • > I suspect that the name is also a bit of an homage to Back to the Future, but given that Musk is of South African origin and didn't move to North America until three years after the movie came out, I'd like to hear it from the horse's mouth to be sure.

        Back to the Future 1 did 45% of it's box office gross internationally ( http://www.boxofficemojo.com/m... [boxofficemojo.com] ). I assume South Africa had movie theaters in 1985. Most reasonably developed countries did.

      • it's a way for them to name a plant so that it has obvious technological associations

        It actually has obvious mythological associations, but feel free to limit yourself to physical units. In common speech, "megas" meant nothing more than simply "big", while "gigas" meant "a Giant". I guess the obvious English adjective would be "effing huge".

    • by mdsolar (1045926)
      Bigger than a breadbox, smaller than an olfactory.
    • by idji (984038)
      go and look at the PICTURE on TFA and you will see they want to make 35GWh/yr (35 GIGAWATT HOURS PER YEAR) of cells by 2020. So Gigafactory is quite appropriate.
    • Gigashadow? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G... [wikipedia.org]

  • I, for one cannot wait for the opportunity to purchase a brand new Tesla Giga. I hope it will cost less than the Model S. I also hope it will be a smartphone, because I already have a vehicle.

  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @02:22PM (#47559917) Homepage

    The Tesla/Panasonic plan gets cell and battery production back into the same plant. The battery industry has, for a while, had a model where cells were made in one country (usually Japan, Taiwan or S. Korea, or at least with machinery from there) and assembled into device-specific battery packs near where the end device was produced (usually China or the US.) For the Chevy Volt, the cells come frm LG Chem in Korea, and the battery packs are assembled at the Brownstown, MI Battery Assembly [gm.com] plant.

    There's no good reason to do it that way now that the era of cheap labor in China is over. As a rule of thumb, labor has to be 4x cheaper to justify offshoring. The coastal provinces in China have reached that level with respect to US/Japan wages.

    Done right, this isn't labor-intensive. Brownstown has only 100 workers in a 400,000 square foot plant, and they're doing battery assembly, which is the more labor-intensive part of the operation. Tesla claims to need 6,500 employees for their 10 million square foot plant, but they're probably counting construction-phase employees.

    • by jfengel (409917)

      There's no good reason to do it that way now that the era of cheap labor in China is over.

      I really don't know much about that; can you amplify a bit? I mean, economics said that it should happen some day, as all that money washing into China should eventually translate into demands for higher pay, but there were plenty of places to squirrel that money away rather than pay workers. And there were a LOT of potential workers.

      So what finally caused the labor rate to rise enough? I gather that the goal was to establish dominance in some kinds of manufacturing so that we'd have to re-establish the ind

      • by Salgat (1098063)
        China taking advantage of outsourcing afforded it the ability to provide rural workers with low wage factory jobs. As more rural workers transitioned to these factory jobs, a middle class started to develop. This eventually led to internal demand for the products they were producing (since you had enough people with low but decent wage jobs), which ultimately results in China having a strong enough middle class to create jobs for their own demand, not just the demand of other countries. China is arriving at
      • by floobedy (3470583)

        The amount of capital there has increased a lot over the last few decades. That implies fewer workers relative to capital, and higher wages for workers.

        but there were plenty of places to squirrel that money away rather than pay workers.

        When there's a scarcity of workers relative to capital, then workers have bargaining power. They can leave a job which pays too little for a job which pays more. It makes sense (ie is more profitable) for companies to pay more, otherwise they cannot attract enough workers to

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Panasonic have highly advanced robotic factories. I took a tour of their "lights out" plasma TV factory and it was quite incredible. I imagine this new gigafactory will be mostly automated.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Their process is on slide 3
    http://www.teslamotors.com/sites/default/files/blog_attachments/gigafactory.pdf

    Interesting that the electrolyte goes in after winding.
    Seems tricky to get the distribution even inside the coil.
    I guess they have built one or two before.

    It will be interesting to see how they push down the pack cost.
    I'd bet on fewer, bigger cells.
    Or maybe a matrix with small cells filling the holes between big ones.

    Looking forward to being ab

  • they haven't started building it yet, and it is supposed to be up and running in 2017? They're still talking about financing. Nope, NOT giga, or not ready in 2017.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "You don't have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows" (Bob Dylan 1965 for youngsters). Which means that improvements in cost or performance of batteries will yield an enormous payback. Battery improvements will come about both by manufacturing efficiencies and technology advances. So despite some failures of the initial start-ups batteries are an excellent investment opportunity both for companies like Panasonic and individual.

Nothing will dispel enthusiasm like a small admission fee. -- Kim Hubbard

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