Follow along as Tesla shows off its massive battery factory and hear from Elon Musk about his plans
Electric car maker Tesla Motors, led by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, plans to show off its huge battery factory under construction outside of Reno, Nevada, during a media event on Tuesday afternoon.
Fortune will be on the scene from noon to 4 p.m. PDT to bring you live photos of the Gigafactory tour as well as the details of Musk’s comments on how he’ll use the factory try to lower the cost of making batteries by 30% for Tesla’s upcoming mainstream electric car, the Model 3.
Tesla has been slowly showing off parts of the factory over the past few weeks, but this will be the first time you’ll be able to ride along with us and see it for yourself. Tune back in at noon for the action.
12:11PM: We’re at the security entrance to the Gigafactory, Tesla cars are driving down the roads and they’re checking our names.
12:10PM: Signs for Lance Gilman real estate, the larger-than-life manager of the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Park, a 166-mile stretch of land where companies can conduct almost any kind of business and construction can start around the clock.
12:03PM: There’s a protest sign at the entrance to Electric Avenue that says “Immigrant Labor Abuse at Tesla,” but no people at the protest.
11:47AM: We’re on the bus, with a couple dozen reporters, headed to the Gigafactory, along the 80 east freeway. Other than some housing and industrial plots, there’s vast stretches of unused land in the region near Sparks, Nevada.
Shortly we’ll pull off at exit 32, for USA Parkway, and “Electric Avenue,” the entrance to Tesla’s Gigafactory.
11:00AM: We arrived in downtown Reno on Monday night at the Whitney Peak Hotel, which sits right next to the famous photo spot of the Reno Arch. Tesla folks and media have already started to fill the hotel, in advance of both the press event on Tuesday and the big customer launch party on Friday.
Unofficial word is there’s going to be a Tesla-themed ice sculpture sitting in the hotel lobby on Friday to greet the incoming Tesla guests.
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If you’re not so familiar with Tesla’s Gigafactory, here’s a brief bit of background:
In late 2013, Tesla TSLA-0.23% started looking around for a massive stretch of land that could provide enough space for a sprawling battery factory. Musk and the Tesla team realized that in order to build the company’s long-awaited Model 3—a $35,000 mainstream electric car due out in late 2017—the company would need to both lower the cost of its batteries, and also have more control over its own supply chain.
In early 2014, Musk and Tesla started a bidding war between a half dozen U.S. states. By summer 2014, Tesla had whittled down those choices to Nevada’s Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, managed by Mustang Ranch owner Lance Gilman, thanks to the state’s huge package of tax breaks and subsidies. (For the complete history of the site selection read: Inside Elon Musk’s $1.4 Billion Score).
The $5 billion Gigafactory has now been under construction for about two years, and as of this May, about 14% of it had been built out. The Wall Street Journalrecently said that number had jumped slightly to one sixth, or a little over 16%. Japanese giant Panasonic is contributing lithium-ion battery cell manufacturing equipment as well as a $1.6 billion investment.
Tesla’s goal is to start making lithium-ion battery cells at the factory by the end of this year. The company is already assembling its Powerpack batteries there, which store energy for buildings and the power grid. A thousand workers are doing construction on the site in an attempt to make batteries there before the Model 3 is set to roll out by the end of 2017.
The Gigafactory is only one of the things that occupying Tesla’s attention these days. The company has been struggling to ramp up production of its Model X, an electric SUV, and has missed its car shipment guidance for the last two quarters.
Meanwhile, Musk announced last month that it plans to buy solar installer SolarCity for $2.86 billion. That deal is expected to be voted on very soon.
In addition, Tesla has recently drawn controversy over its autonomous car software, called Autopilot, when the world’s first known fatality occurred in one of its cars when Autopilot was enabled. U.S. regulators are still investigating that incident.