SPARKS, Nev.— Tesla Motors Inc. is scrambling to finish building its massive $5 billion battery factory here years ahead of schedule to meet demand for its coming cheaper sedan and provide power for new types of vehicles Chief Executive Elon Musk says are under development.
Tesla has doubled the number of people constructing the “gigafactory,” which sits on more than 3,000 acres near Reno. Now, 1,000 workers build seven days a week on two shifts in an effort to start churning out lithium-ion cells by late 2016.
“We have to be ready with cell and pack production well ahead of vehicle production,” JB Straubel, Tesla’s chief technical officer and co-founder, said during a walk-through of the factory. “We’re accelerating our construction plans and accelerating our planned ramp up of cell production.”
The goal is to have the factory operational before the launch next year of the $35,000 Model 3 sedan, which is about half the base price of the Model S. Tesla opened reservations for the Model 3 earlier this year, and strong demand led Mr. Musk to pull a 500,000 sales target ahead two years to 2018. He also raised $1.7 billion through a stock offering in hopes of speeding up battery production expected to lower the cost of the batteries for electric vehicles.
As of now, the gigafactory’s structure is less than one-sixth the size of what the final building is expected to occupy. Most exterior walls are temporary and can be relocated. Already finished is a four-story rectangular portion of the facility, housing 1.9 million square feet of floor space.
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