CEO envisions "romantic" battery factory with appeal of a tourist attraction

Musk sees Tesla's future in diamond-shaped Nevada 'gigafactory'

CEO envisions "romantic" battery factory with appeal of a tourist attraction

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, in Nevada on Thursday: "It's a factory, but we care about aesthetics."

Photo credit: BLOOMBERG
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Elon Musk, Tesla Motors Inc.'s CEO, plans "romantic" touches for the company's multi-billion-dollar battery plant in Nevada that he says is vital to Tesla's goal of mass-market electric car sales.

Tesla on Thursday selected Nevada, where it had already begun preparing a site near Reno, for its "gigafactory" that will make more lithium ion batteries than any plant in the world.

Aside from its scale, the facility will be diamond-shaped, aligned to true north and able to get all its power on site from wind, solar and geothermal systems, Musk said.

"This factory is very important to the future of Tesla -- without it we can't do the mass-market car," Musk said at a press conference with Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval in Carson City, Nevada. "I think it's kind of romantic to say it's shaped like a diamond and aligned on true north, but there are practical reasons for it as well."

The South African-born Musk, 43, who also leads rocket maker Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and is chairman of solar power company SolarCity Corp., intends to accelerate production of electric Tesla cars from about 35,000 units this year to hundreds of thousands annually in the next few years.

To do that, his goal is for the $5 billion battery plant to drive down lithium ion cell production costs as much as 30 percent. Tesla shares 1.7 percent to $286.04 on Thursday in New York trading, the highest closing price since its June 2010 initial public offering. The shares have advanced 90 percent this year.

Tax breaks

Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas were also considered as potential sites for the battery plant, and Musk and company officials have said Tesla will eventually need more than one "gigafactory."

Nevada was selected as Tesla believes it offers the best path to getting the factory built and into operation the fastest, he said.

Nevada offered tax breaks and other state incentives worth as much as $1.3 billion over 20 years to attract the project, state officials said Thursday.

A rendering of the proposed battery plant in Nevada released by Tesla on Thursday.

In exchange, the plant may generate $100 billion in economic development benefits for Nevada, Sandoval said.

Panasonic Corp., Tesla's main supplier of lithium ion cells, said in July that it plans to participate in the battery plant, without saying how much it will invest in the project.

The appearance of the Nevada factory is critical, Musk said.

"It's a factory, but we care about aesthetics. Does it look good? Does it fit in with the rest of the environment?" he said.

A diamond will have less impact on its surroundings, Musk said.

"If you make it a box shape, you'd have to move a lot more earth."

True north alignment will let the company map out where to install assembly equipment using a GPS system for precise alignment, he said.

When completed, the factory may become a tourist attraction, Musk said.

"We're going to make sure that people can visit it, come look and check it out, because it will be worth seeing," he said.

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