The first batch of 2170 lithium-ion cells will go to the company’s Powerwall and Powerpack products.
Tesla Motors and Panasonic are now building battery cells at the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada. Though the two companies had been building “qualification” cells since December, only today has production of battery parts that will be used in end products started.
The battery cells in question are called 2170 cells are were designed to have a high energy density in a small form factor, and to provide what Tesla describes as, “the best performance at the lowest production cost.” They will initially be used in Tesla’s Powerwall 2 and Powerpack home energy-storage systems.
Starting in the second quarter of this year, the Gigafactory will start building battery cells for the Tesla Model 3. The automaker plans to start production of its more affordable electric sedan by the end of this year, and with a large number of pre-orders, battery cells will be in high demand.
Tesla and Panasonic are building the Gigafactory in stages so that the companies can start working in each section as it’s completed. Right now, the building has a 1.9-million square-foot footprint with 4.9 million square feet of floor space. But that only represents 30 percent of the eventual size planned; Tesla says the Gigafactory will ultimately be the biggest building in the world. By 2018, the company expects to build 35 gigawatt-hours’ worth of batteries per year. By the end of this year, the Gigafactory is expected to employ 6,500 people.
The news comes a day after Tesla revealed that it missed its vehicle sales goals in the fourth quarter of 2016. As the company switched to new Autopilot hardware, it had to slow production and sales, and thus delivered 2,750 fewer vehicles than expected. Overall, though, total sales in 2016 were up 64 percent versus 2015, thanks in part to the addition of the Model X crossover.