How Big is the Tesla Gigafactory – Washington DC edition

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As I write this, the Tesla Gigafactory is currently being built in the Nevada desert, near Reno.  In case you haven’t been following this remarkable project, it is to be an enormous factory for manufacturing lithium ion batteries, entirely in the 18650 cell format, which will be used in upcoming Tesla models.  In fact, by 2020, the Gigafactory alone will produce 50 GWh/year of batteries, equivalent to all current 18650 production worldwide.  I’ve also read that additional Gigafactories may be in the works.

The enormous scale of this project is one aspect that makes it so fascinating.  People all over the place are noting the factory’s gargantuan size.  In fact, when I comment on it in online articles (under the handle Leptoquark), I’ve taken to calling it the “River Rouge of batteries”, in homage to the famous Ford River Rouge factory complex in Dearborn.  When the history of our transition away from gasoline and back to electricity is written, the Gigafactory will likely have a prominent place in that history.

Recently, Zach at EVObsession wrote a piece[1] summarizing size comparisons of the Gigafactory with other large structures, including Dallas Cowboys Stadium and the US Capitol building, which got me to thinking: since so many tourists visit Washington DC every year, the spacing of the iconic landmarks on the Mall would make a good way to understand the scale of this project.

So, using Zach’s estimates of about 1100 m by 430 m for the dimensions of the building, and allowing for a surrounding parking apron matching the Tesla simulation, I created two images.  The first is a map of the Western end of the Mall, showing that the Gigafactory would fit neatly between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.  It would cover the Reflecting Pool, Constitution Gardens and the National World War II Memorial.  The green boundary is the parking apron.

The second image is the view to the West looking out of the top of the Washington Monument, which I took on a recent visit.  I’ve added the Gigafactory building outline in a perspective view.  Note especially the size of the people in the foreground.  This matches the scale of people in recent pictures[2] from Bob Tregilus of the construction site itself.

Hopefully, these images can add some perspective on what is now under way in the Nevada desert.  Or, as Dr. Morbius put it in Forbidden Planet,

“Prepare your minds for a new scale of physical scientific values, Gentlemen”.

[1] http://evobsession.com/big-tesla-gigafactory-graphics/

[2] http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1096994_tesla-gigafactory-new-photos-show-progress-on-battery-plant-in-Nevada

Scott Wilson

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