Where Are Tesla Batteries Made? What Tesla Owners Should Know

Tesla continues to be a leader in electric vehicle innovation and production, expanding from high-end fully electric cars to solar power systems and charging stations. The Model 3 is the highest-selling electric vehicle of all time and other Tesla models have climbed in popularity. 

Since they are the most popular, where are Tesla batteries made? Tesla batteries are made inside a Gigafactory just outside of Sparks, Nevada. There is also one located in California, New York, and another to be built in Texas. There are two international locations in Shanghai and Berlin. 

While still one of the more expensive vehicles, Tesla offers comfort, technology, and economy. With an ever-increasing push away from fossil fuels, an electric car is appealing to many consumers. Being able to charge at home as well as at any of the many charging stations worldwide is helping electric vehicle owners stay away from the pump at a time of record high fuel prices.

This rapid rise in the popularity of Tesla vehicles has also caused a demand for batteries. Unlike traditional automotive manufacturing, the infrastructure for electric vehicle parts is still fledgling. While the economics of the entire automotive manufacturing industry is quite intricate, this article will give an overview of Tesla battery manufacturing. 

Where Are Tesla Batteries Assembled?

Tesla manufactures its products in facilities known as Gigafactories. These facilities are located mostly in America, but there are 2 international facilities, as well. The term “Gigafactory” stems from the prefix “Giga” meaning “1 billion,” representing the massive size of the factory. The factory in Nevada is over 5.3 million square feet of working space designed for building Tesla components and cars. The idea of such a massive factory is for Tesla to mass produce its batteries. This limits dependence on third-party manufacturers which helps Tesla produce more vehicles.

The outside of a Gigafactory is, of course, huge. The white building is trimmed in Tesla’s signature red color. The inside contains office spaces for administrative and engineering work as well as a cafeteria for the 7000 or so on-site employees. The major part of the building is dedicated to the production, with robotic arms moving and installing components, autonomous vehicles shipping battery cells back and forth, and many more stages including what is essentially an automated warehouse for moving and storing parts.

The roof is covered in solar panels and the goal is to have the Gigafactory be powered solely on sustainable energy. In the Nevada desert, there is ample sunshine, so solar is a good option. Plus Tesla is the leader in electrification and we can bet that they will utilize their battery packs to store energy for the facility’s needs.

Since 2017, Giga Nevada has produced over a million battery packs. The facility has 13 production lines up and going, putting out 35GWh of lithium-ion cells per year. These will go into cars, power walls, and Megapacks.

Inside the factory is equally massive. In Giga Nevada, there is an immense production floor. It is about 90% automated. Nearly everything from vehicle construction to material handling and inventory management is automated. Some robots carry battery cells back and forth, following a specific path with virtually no human interaction. 

There is also ample room for humans to work, including administrative work, some materials handling, and quality control, plus all the smaller roles, like janitorial and facilities management. This requires a full-fledged cafeteria plus additional food trucks on-site. 

The facility was also designed to fully accommodate parking for all employees plus shipping and receiving capabilities. With so much coming in and out, truck drivers need to be able to get in and out promptly. Of course, each Gigafactory is unique but still has the same basic idea. 

Why Does Tesla Build Its Factories? 

It might seem like a lot to go through to produce every part of a Tesla in-house. After all, automakers have outsourced manufacturing for decades. This has helped sustain the automotive industry on a global scale. The catch is that there is heavy interdependency. As we have seen during the pandemic, manufacturing plays a huge role in the global economy. If any factory slows down or shuts down entirely, every other company that works with that manufacturer suffers.

It would appear that Tesla is attempting to limit that interdependency. While Tesla still relies on outsourced materials and parts, all of the manufacturing is done in one of the Gigafactories where Tesla itself has full reigns on quality control and production scheduling.

There is also a benefit to having facilities. Gigafactories are massive, to say the least, and that space can always be repurposed. The capacity of each factory is already varied, such as Giga Texas being the location to produce Cyber Truck and Tesla Semi. Tesla is also investing in making sure Gigafactories are sustainable as far as electrical energy is used. This helps lower the overall environmental impact and is yet another example of lowering interdependency on outsourced parts.

With all this being said, the reasons for doing all this are up to Tesla and Elon Musk. This has always been an enterprising company and the vision they hold is only up to them. As a thriving company, the possibilities for growth are immense.

Where Are All Gigafactories Located?

The original manufacturing facility was in Fremont, California, and used to be a joint GM/Toyota plant before it went to Tesla. However, the first Gigafactory called Giga Nevada or Gigafactory 1, is located about 23 miles east of Reno nestled in an arid desert valley.

Since Giga Nevada, Tesla has built factories in New York, Shanghai, Berlin, and Texas, with Shanghai being the first international factory and Texas becoming the new headquarters. Each facility is set up to produce different Tesla products with Giga Nevada being the primary location for battery production.

Giga New York is located in Buffalo, New York. This facility is a converted steel mill that now produces Tesla solar panel products. The facility is scaled to output about 10,000 solar panels per day, which roughly equates to 1 gigawatt per year. This is an interesting comparison between the power capacity of a solar panel compared to a battery, as Giga Nevada outputs about 35-gigawatt hours per year in battery form.

The Shanghai facility specializes in the final assembly of Model 3 and Model Y. Construction began only at the end of December 2018 and has the goal of 500,000 units per year. Cars from this factory are primarily shipped to European and Asian countries, with a few others in the mix. The Covid pandemic interrupted the functionality of this facility in early 2020, but the factory was still able to ramp up production to 8000 vehicles per week by the end of 2020. 

Gigafactory 4, or Giga Berlin, began official construction in 2019 after a lengthy bid for location. Many European countries competed for the Gigafactory opportunity as it would be a great economic opportunity. Giga Berlin produces battery packs, powertrains, and Model Y assembly. 

Finally, Giga Texas is located in Austin, Texas, and is Tesla’s headquarters. Construction was completed in 2021 and this location will produce Model 3 and Model Y. This is also slated to be the birthplace of Tesla Cyber Truck and Tesla Semi, although production has yet to begin. 

Future Of Gigafactories

Currently, there are no new announced Gigafactories. The last few have popped up in the last few years, with the most recent being Giga Texas which was built in August 2021. While demand for Tesla vehicles remains high, the cumulative capacity of all these factories is immense. 

However, there are a few rumored locations for future factories. In a 2020 Twitter exchange, Elon Musk mentioned finishing Giga Berlin as well as the second US location. Subsequently, Giga Berlin is rolling and Giga Texas has been constructed. This was in response to a Twitter user asking Musk if there are plans for a Gigafactory in Asia outside of China. Japan and South Korea are great options as they have strong economies and are close to Panasonic, which manufactures all the battery components for Tesla.

Other rumors include India, which has a fairly strong economy, but there hasn’t been anything to indicate Tesla’s interest in the country. That is until Tesla incorporated Tesla India Motors and Energy Private Ltd. It is unclear if this is indicative of Tesla’s interest in building a gigafactory in India or if it is part of some ploy to import more vehicles into the Indian market. 

With how successful Tesla has been in the past several years, we will probably see more and more Gigafactories be built worldwide to sustain growing demand. There are many places that Teslas are imported to which might benefit from an in-house factory. Similarly, in areas like Europe, where there are many countries in a concentrated geographic area, there is higher competition for the benefits of hosting an economic powerhouse.

Lithium: Where Does It Come From?

Steering back to Tesla batteries, the push now is to make all batteries Lithium based batteries. This is the same type of battery that is in our other electronic devices, such as our phones and computers. Lithium batteries are rechargeable and have great capacity. Tesla batteries are comprised of individual cells which have been updated.

Each cell is just a smaller battery. Li-Ion batteries are constructed of lithium, cobalt, manganese, and graphite. There are also other materials used for the housing, like some plastics and other non-involved metals. The metals used as the electrodes are pressed flat into thin sheets and then rolled tightly together. A non-conductive spacer in between the two electrodes creates a power differential that is accessed by plugging it into the device. 

Graphite primarily comes out of China, where it is also processed and treated for battery construction. Cobalt supply poses a significant risk to battery production as cobalt is very scarce even considering it comes out of North America, most of Asia, Australia, and some African countries. Manganese is commonly used in steel production with only about 0.2% of all manganese extracted worldwide being used in batteries. 

Finally, let’s dive into the star of the show. Lithium is one of the elements of the periodic table and is a soft, silvery metal. It is the least dense metal and the least dense solid element. It is highly reactive and as such, it can be very dangerous. However, the lithium that is used in lithium batteries is a specific compound designed to be less reactive.

A lithium battery creates electricity by using lithium as the anode, or the electrode through which electricity enters. This is kind of like the positive terminal. The cathode, or the electrode through which the electricity leaves, or the negative terminal, is manganese dioxide. The electrolyte used in Lithium batteries is a specific solvent. This is a superior option for electronic devices and electric vehicles because they are rechargeable and are overall lighter than lead-acid batteries.

Many people wonder if there’s ever going to be an end of lithium supply. The hard answer is that, yes, we will likely run out of lithium at some point. You can learn more about that by reading our other article here.

But Where Do We Get It From?

Lithium comparatively is a rare element but is still found on earth in a few different minerals and substances. While there are a fair amount of these specific mineral deposits throughout the globe, not all of them are worth mining. The most useful minerals for mining lithium are called spodumene and petalite. Spodumene is the primary source of lithium going into batteries and is found as a greyish, almost colorless crystalline structure of various sizes.

The 4 main countries that produce lithium are Australia, Chile, China, and Argentina. In South America, the borders of Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia create what is colloquially referred to as the Lithium Triangle as it is believed that about 75% of Earth’s lithium deposits are located in this region. 

Australia reportedly holds about 18% of the world’s lithium stores, but is the world’s largest producer, putting out about 21.3 kilotons or 47% of lithium produced worldwide. While China comes in second as far as world resources, only about 3 kilotons, or 7%, of the world’s lithium comes from China.

However, lithium in different forms can be found throughout the world, although not all of them are mined for production. In the US, there have been discoveries of lithium-containing minerals in Wyoming and Nevada, with the largest being around the Nevada-Oregon border.

Mined lithium goes all over the world before it’s ready for Tesla. Tesla sources lithium from an Australian mine which has to ship to China for processing. From there, the processed lithium goes to Gigafactories to be turned into the battery cells needed to complete the entire battery pack. Typically this is freighted on a ship to various locations but also by truck or train as the shipments move to locations like Giga texas and Giga Nevada.

This is a huge logistical undertaking as end-user demand regulates lithium production, meaning they can’t stock up on processed lithium. It has to meet the need for the number of vehicles in production. 

Tesla Battery Construction

Most batteries consist of smaller cells. Each cell has a certain voltage and capacity. For example, in automotive 12-volt batteries, each battery is made up of typically 3 cells at about 4 volts each that are all connected, creating the 12 volts. Tesla batteries are built on the same idea, just on a different scale. Depending on the type of battery, each Tesla battery is made up of tons of small cells. These small cells are interconnected in series to equal the required voltage to power the car.

The original battery used in construction is the 1865 battery. 1865 refers to the dimensions of the battery (18mm diameter by 65mm height). With a nominal voltage of 3.7 volts, these batteries are used in tons of different things, like flashlights, laptops, power tools, e-bikes, rechargeable power banks, and electronic cigarettes. In Tesla batteries, there were over 7,000 1865 batteries all linked together to achieve the necessary voltage and kWh.

The 2170 battery was also used in Tesla Model 3s since 2017. 2170 has about double the capacity of the 1865 and the battery pack comprises a bit over 4,000 individual cells. This battery has also been used in Tesla Powerwall and Powerpack as well as some e-bikes.

The newest battery cell is called a 4680, again referring to the dimensions of the battery (46mm diameter by 80mm tall). Tesla claims that these batteries have 5 times the energy, 16% more range, and 6 times the power of previous batteries. Where 2170 had up to 5,000 mAh, the 4680 has about 25,000 mAh. The tradeoff is that with the larger size comes more generated heat. Fortunately, the thermal management system has been engineered to regulate battery temperature. The number of batteries also drops to about 900, which also helps the overall temperature.

Already, we have seen design changes to make better, more advanced products. As demand for electric vehicles continues to rise, the design of these vehicles will likely continue to improve.

Does Tesla Recycle Batteries?

According to Tesla.com, 100% of batteries are recycled. Once a battery has reached its expected life and no longer is functional, it should be taken to a Tesla service center. From there, the battery pack will be replaced in the vehicle (depending on the situation) and then the used battery can be repurposed. First, the individual cells will be tested and broken down into individual parts. It is common for one section of cells to fail at a time versus the entire battery. In this case, the battery pack can be refurbished and either reinstalled into a vehicle or be used as a Powerwall or Powerpack. 

Related Question

So, how much does it cost to recycle a Tesla battery? Fortunately for the owner of the Tesla, getting the battery recycled does not cost you anything. Tesla will cover the entire cost of the process. It ends up costing Tesla around $7,000 to recycle an electric car battery though. This is one of the big upsides to owning an electric car. Click here to learn more.

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