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Elon Musk’s Gigafactory may be popping up in Nevada — or not

29 Jul

15336565h1456509-600xx3992-2667-0-0Tesla may be building its Gigafactory in Sparks, Nev., or maybe not.

Eric Van Susteren

Each new report about where Elon Musk will place his Gigafactory battery plant sparks a round of speculation about the strategy and future of Tesla Motors Inc.

The latest report as to where Tesla will build the $5 billion battery factory? That the little town of Sparks, Nevada, just outside of Reno, may have landed it — or maybe it hasn’t.

Tesla first announced that it would build the factory in one of four southwestern states, later adding California to the mix. Then it said it may begin work on two or more sites at once so that it could avoid missing crucial deadlines.

Now attention is focused on Sparks, where 50 large earth movers had begun work on a site, enough heavy metal to build the 10 million-square-foot site, according to auto blog Jalopnik. Workers there were reticent about details of the project, which reportedly has been dubbed Project Tiger. That might seem like pretty thin evidence to some observers, but to others it means a lot. ( Forbes points out that lithium-ion batteries are often called Li-ion batteries, basing some speculation on carnivorous cat connections.)

Why build in Nevada? It’s the state that’s geographically closest to the company’s Fremont, Calif., factory. California is obviously closer, but Musk has pointed out that California’s circuitous regulatory and approval requirements makes it a distant possibility.

Nevada doesn’t have those problems. Also worth noting, the only lithium mine in the U.S. is located there. We’ve written in the past that the company will need 25,000 tons of lithium to meet its expectation of 500,000 battery packs per year.

Before you get too excited, it’s important to note that Nevada newspaper Reno Gazette Journal has reported grading has stopped at the site, after reaching 85 percent completion, without clarifying whether it’s a temporary pause or a full stop.

Hopefully we’ll learn more when Tesla reports its second-quarter earnings on July 31.

 

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