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  • - For the last year or so, the story of Tesla

  • has been all about the Model 3 and understandably so.

  • Elon Musk basically staked the entire viability

  • of his company on being able to make

  • as many of these cars as possible,

  • and there were times where that bet looked pretty risky.

  • - Temporarily shutting down production.

  • - Way behind on the production.

  • - Production problems.

  • - See which production issues to sort out.

  • - Welcome to production hell.

  • - But now Tesla is, more or less,

  • beyond a lot of those challenges.

  • So we came out to the desert

  • to see the most important thing that Tesla makes,

  • what Elon Musk calls.

  • - Giant machine that builds a machine.

  • - This is Tesla's Gigafactory.

  • (upbeat funk piano music)

  • It's ideal for him.

  • It makes everything that Tesla sells:

  • batteries, home storage, solar panels,

  • and of course electric cars.

  • That size is truly massive too.

  • When it's finished, the first Gigafactory

  • will be the biggest building in the world by footprint,

  • and the second biggest by volume.

  • It's large enough to house 107 NFL football fields

  • or 93 Boeing 747s,

  • and currently makes about 3.5 million battery cells per day.

  • - [Chris] As you can see, never a dull moment here,

  • always a flurry of activity.

  • - [Sean] That's Chris Lister,

  • the vice president of the Gigafactory.

  • - We designed this Factory with first principles in mind,

  • making as few of moves as possible,

  • positioning lines as close to the loading docks as possible,

  • using automation to our advantage,

  • using gravity to our advantage.

  • We built this with the end in mind

  • of being a net-zero facility.

  • We'll have over 200,000 solar panels on the roof

  • when this is all completed.

  • It'd be the largest array of solar panels anywhere.

  • If you look at the parking lot,

  • that will all eventually be production space for something,

  • whether that's growth of Model 3,

  • whether that's future products,

  • whether that's more cell production,

  • whether that's energy products.

  • There's a ton of different options that we have

  • but we have the land to do it,

  • and we have the products to support that.

  • - Tesla has clear goals for a complete Gigafactory

  • but it's still very much under construction.

  • And while the company has said

  • it wants to finish the factory in the early 2020s,

  • it's easy to see that there's a lot more work to do.

  • You see, while Gigafactory 1 is all about the Model 3,

  • Tesla doesn't actually build that car here.

  • The building is essentially split into two parts,

  • part of the Gigafactory is leased to Panasonic,

  • who, if you didn't know,

  • makes the cells that Tesla uses in its battery packs.

  • The rest of the Gigafactory

  • is used to build the drive unit for the Model 3.

  • That's the battery pack, the electric motor,

  • and a few other things, like the inverter.

  • That all gets packaged up and shipped to California

  • where the cars are actually built.

  • (upbeat funk music)

  • Tesla still leans really heavily on this factory

  • here in Fremont California to make the Model X, S,

  • and assemble the 3.

  • In fact, every Tesla that's on the road today

  • comes out of this factory.

  • If Tesla ever wants to reach that ultimate goal

  • of full vertical integration,

  • it basically needs to move everything that happens here

  • into the Gigafactory.

  • And, frankly, there are a lot of elements of that idea

  • of vertical integration already happening here.

  • Tesla does everything from cut metal from rolls of aluminum

  • to stamp out pieces for the cars to making the seats,

  • basically everything that goes into making a car,

  • other than some parts of the battery,

  • happen inside these walls.

  • - [Jat] These are the batteries coming from Gigafactory.

  • - Oh, yeah. - Right?

  • They come in on a rack that is designed for automation,

  • and it gets placed onto this

  • and gets transferred over through the FlexDecks.

  • - [Sean] That's Jat Dhillon,

  • who's the head of manufacturing for the Model 3.

  • - So automation, we're looking for everything.

  • We obviously want to improve efficiencies across the board.

  • We take, in fact, ergonomics as well.

  • Any of the areas where you have a lot of complexity

  • around getting to certain fasteners,

  • we want to be able to automate those cells

  • because that does create ergo challenges

  • for the production staff.

  • For Model 3, we chose to go highly automated

  • but when you go with advanced automation like this,

  • it can be really good benefit if it works out

  • but there are times when you can overdo it

  • and have too much automation.

  • (upbeat music)

  • - [Sean] Tesla didn't have the right balance

  • when it first started making the Model 3,

  • and that turned into one of the biggest challenges

  • the company faced when it was building that car.

  • In theory, building the Gigafactory from the ground up

  • was supposed to give Tesla the freedom

  • to draw the perfect factory from scratch

  • but the delays in Model 3 production show

  • that even Tesla doesn't get everything right

  • in the first draft.

  • that's potentially concerning considering the company needs

  • to make many more Gigafactories

  • if it wants to fulfill its mission:

  • accelerating the world's transition to sustainable energy.

  • - We can declare victory

  • when every single car on the road is a Tesla,

  • and we can declare victory when every home

  • has Powerwalls and a solar roof that we've made.

  • We'll continue to build out.

  • We'll continue to expand into other markets,

  • whether that be Asia, whether that be Europe,

  • whether that be just different parts of the world

  • that we've not been able to touch up to this point.

  • - Tesla's going to need way more Gigafactories,

  • and it's already working on that.

  • Gigafactory 2 is in Buffalo, New York,

  • and is completely dedicated to the company's solar products.

  • The real expansion starts in China.

  • Musk and Tesla recently signed a lease

  • to build a third Gigafactory outside of Shanghai.

  • China is the world's biggest market for electric cars

  • on pace to sell around one million of them in 2018 alone.

  • And while Tesla already has some success

  • in China selling its cars there,

  • building them and selling them locally

  • will help them work around problems,

  • like soaring tariffs as a result of the ongoing trade war.

  • The same ideas apply to Europe

  • where Tesla's fourth Gigafactory is likely to wind up.

  • And beyond, Musk has said he wants

  • a dozen or more Gigafactories around the world.

  • These are all very high ambitions

  • but Tesla still has a long way to go

  • and there are definite growing pains

  • as the company scales towards Musk's grand vision.

  • (upbeat guitar music)

  • The Gigafactory is many things:

  • It's impressive.

  • It's kind of awe-inspiring.

  • It's definitely enormous.

  • But there's only a couple things happening there.

  • Tesla's only making a few of its products

  • in that gigantic building.

  • That said, maybe that doesn't matter right now,

  • Tesla has bought itself some breathing room

  • by getting Model 3 production onto relatively solid ground,

  • but there are many other products in the Tesla pipeline,

  • like the Model Y SUV, the Tesla Pickup, the semi truck,

  • and the second-generation Roadster,

  • so the idea of the Gigafactory is crucial to the company

  • in a much bigger way than any of those individual products.

  • (upbeat funk pop music)

  • Thanks for watching.

  • We spent a couple days in the Gigafactory,

  • so if you have any questions about what we saw there

  • or what's going on with Tesla,

  • ask in the comments below