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Everything you need to know about Gigafactories

For a term that didn’t exist before 2013, ‘Gigafactory’ has suddenly come to feature heavily in our day-to-day vernacular. They appear to be popping on every country’s infrastructure roadmap, and are central to a thriving EV ecosystem. With Reliance Industries (RIL) planning on building four of them in India, it’s important to see just how gigafactories can alter the topography of public and private transport.

What is a Gigafactory?

The term was coined by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, back in 2013, for the then-upcoming lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility in Nevada. Tesla claims that the factory gets its name from the word ‘Giga’ which represents a ‘billion’. However, in common parlance, a Gigafactory has come to represent a battery-production facility that’s simply gigantic in scale and brings multiple companies and components together to scale up lithium-ion battery production at an unprecedented level. Instead of kilowatt-hours (the unit used to measure a battery’s capacity) or megawatt-hours, manufacturers have to consider gigawatt-hours, to supply the level of energy they will need. Tesla, for example, reached an annualised rate of 20 GWh, back in 2018, which, according to the brand, made it “the highest-volume battery plant in the world”.

Tesla claims that the Nevada-based Gigafactory or Gigafactory 1 is only 30 percent done. This is despite the fact that the factory, in its current form occupies more than 1.9 million square feet of Nevada’s arid land. When completed, the Gigafactory will be the biggest building in the world by footprint, and the second biggest in terms of volume. While Tesla has several spots around the globe earmarked for their Gigafactory, the term has come to represent any megastructure dedicated to battery production, the likes of which are coming up rapidly across the globe. Elon Musk has also proven that building large-scale gigafactories needn’t take years. Tesla, under Musk’s steerage, wants its Gigafactory 4 to be the fastest-built factory in the world.



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