Tesla and Panasonic have begun mass production of high-performance cylindrical “2170” (21mm diameter, 70mm height) lithium-ion battery cells at the Gigafactory in Nevada. The output will first be used in Tesla’s energy storage products and then in the Model 3.
The 2170 cell was jointly designed and engineered by Tesla and Panasonic to offer the best performance at the lowest production cost in what they determined to be an optimal form factor for both electric vehicles and energy products. (Slightly larger than 18650 cells—18mm x 65mm).
Production of 2170 cells for qualification started in December; production has now begun on cells that will be used in Tesla’s Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2 energy products. Model 3 cell production will follow in Q2. By 2018, the Gigafactory will produce 35 GWh/year of lithium-ion battery cells, nearly as much as the rest of the entire world’s battery production combined.
The Gigafactory is being built in phases so that Tesla, Panasonic, and other partners can begin manufacturing immediately inside the finished sections and continue to expand thereafter.
The phased approach also enables for learning and continuous improvement of the construction and operational techniques. The current structure—representing 30% of the final building—has a footprint of 1.9 million square feet housing 4.9 million square feet of operational space across several floors. Tesla expects that when it is complete, the Gigafactory will be the biggest building in the world.
Tesla anticipates that the Gigafactory will enable the cost of battery cells to decline due to increasing automation and process design to enhance yield, lowered capital investment per Wh of production, the optimization of locating most manufacturing processes under one roof, and economies of scale.
In 2017 alone, Tesla and Panasonic will hire several thousand local employees and at peak production, the Gigafactory will directly employ 6,500 people and indirectly create between 20,000 to 30,000 additional jobs in the surrounding regions.