新工厂将雇佣约6,500名员工，预计在进入量产的第一年末，就可将锂电池组的每千瓦时成本减少30%。这一点对于公司CEO埃隆•穆斯克的目标来说可谓必不可少。穆斯克正在努力把汽车价格降到Model S豪华轿车的一半，而Model S的起价为70,000美元。
Tesla Motors, the innovative electric car company, wants to be a bigtime automaker. To achieve that, it needs to produce hundreds of thousands of vehicles more than the 22,300 electric vehicles it made in 2013.
Which means it's going to need a bigger battery factory. A much, much bigger one.
On Feb. 26, the electric automaker revealed the first details for its so-called Gigafactory, a massive facility that will be designed to produce more lithium-ion batteries annually by 2020 than were made worldwide in 2013. At 10 million square feet, Tesla estimates that the plant will have the capacity to produce 50 gigawatt hours of battery packs a year, which will be used for its Model S luxury sedan and a cheaper third-generation vehicleintended for the mass market. By 2020, Tesla estimates the facility will be able to make enough batteries to supply 500,000 vehicles a year.
The factory, which will employ about 6,500 people, is expected to reduce the per-kilowatt-hour cost of its lithium-ion battery packs by more than 30% by the end of the first year of volume production. It's nothing less than necessary for CEO Elon Musk's bid to make a car 50% cheaper than Tesla's luxury Model S, which starts at $70,000.
A possible location
Since the announcement, speculation has run rampant about where the facility will be located -- and with whom battery manufacturer Tesla will partner.
In its initial announcement, Tesla said it is evaluating 500- to 1,000-acre sites in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas. But the company has said little else. (Responding to a Fortune inquiry, Tesla spokesman Patrick Jones declined to comment any further.) But according to Navigant Research analyst Sam Jaffe, there's one must-have that Tesla's new plant will need more than any other: a freight train.
"The single-most important aspect is that it's near a rail line," said Jaffe, who specializes in the energy storage market. "These batteries are very heavy, and they have to ship them all the way to their plant in California."
Put a rail line toward the top of the factory's basic requirements, and the list of possible locations narrows.
"If you look at the Union Pacific line, they go right through El Paso, cut through New Mexico, through Arizona, and then up through Nevada," Jaffe said. "And look at their Fremont plant; it's right next to the rail line."