Tesla Gigafactory located in Reno Nevada, maybe, possibly

Where, oh where, is the Tesla Gigafactory going to be located?  Where, oh where, will it be?  Many of us are waiting not so patiently for Tesla Motors to speak the location, while others of us are going out in the field to talk with people, take pictures, and draw conjectures.  One such is Bob Tregilus, a Reno Nevada resident who’s the co-host of This Week In Energy, founder of the Reno area Electric Auto Association, and generally speaking a clean energy and electric vehicles advocate.  Bob has discovered a curiously large highly secretive construction project underway outside Reno, of the correct size for the Tesla Gigafactory, and even has some confirming evidence.

The story, which he posted on the Transport Evolved website, is that Reno would make an excellent location for the Gigafactory, and that the curiously large construction project perfectly fits the bill.

But, before we get into summarizing Bob’s findings – let’s review what the Gigafactory is all about.

Tesla Motors has huge plans underway.  While the company is currently selling the Tesla Model S, and is slated to begin selling the Model X in 2015, their sights are on transitioning beyond the luxury car market and entering the mass market for real with an electric car.  The Tesla Model III (a.k.a. Model 3) is to be an affordable (MSRP $35,000), mass market (200,000+ per year) electric car, with a 200+ miles electric driving range, and with the Supercharger system supporting long range electric driving with an excellent fast charging system.

Evade blocked charging stations with one of these handy J1772 extension cords.

Sponsored

If you pencil out the numbers it means Tesla Motors will require a whole lotta gigawatt-hours of battery packs per year.  Enough, in fact, to equal the current total worldwide production of lithium-ion batteries.  That’s to expand Model S and Model X production to the level of perhaps 20,000+ per year for each model into each geographic area (150,000+ per year Model S and X, maybe) as well as the expected 200,000+ per year Model III sales.  FWIW I’ve talked with lots of people who, like me, intend to be among the first to order the Model III.

Tesla’s plan was announced a few months ago, to build a gigantic battery pack factory that will by itself exceed current world production for lithium-ion batteries.  While a large chunk of the production will go to Tesla’s automobiles, the company also plans to go into the energy storage system market and some of the production will be for that line of products.  Over time, Tesla Motors expects to build more Gigafactories, but I believe they’ll start with just one.

The company has been negotiating with representatives in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, who are all vying to land the Gigafactory, and its 6000+ jobs.  Tesla Motors is being extremely tightlipped about which state will win the competition, and they’ve said that negotiations will proceed up to (or past) the ground breaking phase in multiple states before making a decision.

Going by Bob Tregilus’ research, northern Nevada (a.k.a. Reno) would be an excellent location from a functional standpoint.

Lithium production companies are located nearby, as are mining companies which produce other raw minerals
Direct rail connection between Reno and Fremont CA, on rail lines through Donner Pass.  On the rare occasions Donner Pass (named for the infamous Donner Party) is closed in the winter, nearby the Feather River Canyon has a rail line which stays open all year long.
Business friendly stuff like “right to work” laws

Photo of site
by Bob Tregilus
used by permission under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
Through the grapevine (literally a friend of a friend), Bob heard of a large construction project near the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center.  So he went over to look, and found a large plot of land – big enough for the Gigafactory – with a flotilla of over 50 land graders preparing land for a building pad.  His visit was on a Sunday, and the construction workers were busy.  On a Sunday.  On a later night-time visit, he found the workers were working away under floodlights.  Curious.
Closeup of the work going on
by Bob Tregilus
used by permission under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
Night-time work, under floodlight
by Bob Tregilus
used by permission under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
TRIC extent (it’s larger than Reno)
from the TRIC website
The TRIC website says the location is already home to several huge industrial operations, that anything to be built there can be fast-tracked because the land is already zoned for industrial nonresidential use, and the county is pro-industrial-development.  It stretches along I-80 for 12 miles, and the railroads already service the facility.
Front gate with “Project Tiger” sign
by Bob Tregilus
used by permission under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
The construction project is secretive – with signs on the perimeter saying “Project Tiger” and workers on the sight responded to Bob’s questions with that line where they say they know the truth, and they could tell Bob, but then they’d have to kill him.
Location of the construction work,
annotations by Bob Tregilus,
used by permission under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
According to the Reno Gazette Journal, a construction permit was pulled in May for a huge land grading project, at 2641 Portofino Drive, in the TRIC, in preparation for an unnamed project.  The authors of that article interviewed the chief guy of the TRIC, the one who would approve any project, and all he said is that he does not have a signed contract with Tesla Motors.  But, that doesn’t mean anything, because he said the TRIC was quite willing and able to prepare land ahead of a signed contract – and by way of example, he said the TRIC had spent a year and a half working on a site for Walmart before they ever knew who it is was to be the occupant of the site.
In other words, what we have is a pretty well founded conjecture by Bob Tregilus that Tesla Motors is going to build the Gigafactory near Reno Nevada.  But, as we noted above, Tesla Motors has said they’ll take multiple sites up to or beyond the ground-breaking phase just to make sure they have at least one site on which to build the Gigafactory.  It may still be that one of the other sites will win, and that all this work near Reno is just a subterfuge to win a better deal somewhere else.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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