Highlights From Tesla Gigafactory Press Conference Featuring Musk, Straubel, Panasonic VP


Musk, Straubel, and Panasonic's Yamada Talking To The Press At The Tesla Gigafactory

Musk, Straubel, and Panasonic’s Yamada Talking To The Press At The Tesla Gigafactory

Today marks the much anticipated grand opening of the Tesla Gigafactory. Earlier this week, CEO Elon Musk, along with CTO J.B. Straubel and Panasonic VP Yoshihiko Yamada participated in a very telling press conference.

Update (July 29th):  Tesla has now completed its grand opening tourof the Gigafactory – check here take the full livestream walk-through yourself!

Tesla Gigafactory - July 2016

Tesla Gigafactory – July 2016

Topics covered included the Gigafactory, of course, but also Panasonic’s role, battery format, the Model 3, and Autopilot, among much more.

Below are some highlights from the lengthy conversation.



“The factory is the machine that builds the machine. It actually deserves more attention from creative and problem solving engineers than the product it makes. What we’re seeing, if we take a creative engineer and apply them to designing the machine that makes the machine, they can make 5 times as much headway per hour, than if they work on the product itself.”

Panasonic’s Role


“I used to be in charge of components five or six years ago. At that time our relationship with Tesla was one of supplier and customer. A conventional business relationship . . . But since we started discussion on the Gigafactory that’s completely changed . . . We are not the simple buyer and supplier relationship.”

Battery Format


“We’ve spent a lot of time on this actually. It’s kind of interesting. There are a bunch of trade offs. There are some things that get better when you make the cell size bigger, and some things that get worse. 18-650 was sort of an accident of history. That was what was standardized for early products. So we revisited all of those trade offs and came to this size (21-70), which is quite a bit bigger. If you have them next to each other, the actual volume of materials inside is substantially more. And overall it’s about cost optimization.”

Model 3


“I believe we are on track to meet the half million by 2018.”


“With the pull up of the Model 3, and the volume goal to meet a half million cars by 2018, we also have had to pull up the Gigafactory schedule to supply the cells and battery packs for the Model 3 . . . What that means is for the earlier schedule for the Gigafactory, we’ve had to pull that ahead by two years. By 2018 we have to be at 35 gigawatt hours of production to support those Model 3s.”

And, the infamous, Autopilot


“I think we improved people’s safety, not just in fatalities but also injuries. We can see how it actually reduces impact velocity. It can reduce impact from 76 miles per hour to 46 miles an hour. That’s massive . . . We polled Tesla owners, do you want autopilot disabled or not. Not one person wanted it disabled. That’s pretty telling.”

Source: Fortune

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43 Comments on "Highlights From Tesla Gigafactory Press Conference Featuring Musk, Straubel, Panasonic VP"

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“We polled Tesla owners, do you want autopilot disabled or not. Not one person wanted it disabled. That’s pretty telling.”

..I’ve never seen where “survivorship bias” could be taken so literally.

Bias the people who still want assault weapons in hand of crazy people after 1200 shoot dead people last year.

“Would you like the 2500-$3000 option you paid for taken away?”

Of course no one would say yes.

It’s especially dumb considering the driver has to purposefully engage it. So if any driver didn’t trust it, they would simply choose not to use it. No reason to have it removed.

Thank you. That’s the most important point.

Also, thank you for using the type II conditional sentence structure correctly.

“Musk’s response to if Tesla will get into grid services: I think we’ll get into grid services eventually. The goal of Tesla is to accelerate sustainable energy, so we’re going to take a step back and think about what’s most likely to achieve that goal.”

This is what I thought he was going to announce in Master Plan 2.

IMO it’s way, way, way too soon to know whether / when / to what extent / how it makes sense to go into grid services, or even just making money off the SC network, rather than simply using them to sell more physical products (cars / powerwalls / solar systems).

Even if Musk is sure it will make sense eventually, there’s no upside in saying it out loud now. Tesla management (and musk even more so, with SpaceX), are trying to do too many things at once as it is, and sp;litting management attention at a critical time is stupid.

All they need to do is makme sure that their current business models / contracts don’t prevent them from doing it later on.

It took Apple years before it made any money from the iTunes Store, and even though I’m sure they were aiming for it eventually, they took pains during the first years to say they were just covering costs and using it only to expand device sales.

At this point, grid services is the only way to make an economically viable argument for residential batteries. Build a really smart battery that the utility can tap into for peak demand, frequency management, “duck neck” support, demand-response, etc.

It’s pretty difficult to let the genie ( Autopilot ) ouf of the bottle – give it to your customers and then take it back.

It’s a toy for people, and they enjoy it’s novelty. They did good to trademark the name Autopilot, but they erred in using it so early. Autopilot certainly suggests a fully autonomous mode to give relief and relaxation to the driver. Thus, the guy asleep on the video, and the dead guy who was watching a movie, and on and on.

Imagine the uproar if Tesla DID remove Autopilot functionality from existing customer’s cars! It would probably result in riots and picket lines. It’s a parlor toy first – and it does have legitimate safety functions as part of it’s suite of features.

The other shoe hasn’t dropped yet where a Tesla in summon mode kills a dog, cat or human. People just get into so many diverse situations – like, what engineer could have predicted the truck trailer incident? The number of variables seems infinite. This is why autonomous features will remain a legal nightmare and thus a “parlor trick” for good, in my opinion.

I disagree completely. If one knows what an actual auto-pilot does, then one wouldn’t think that it’s complete autonomy. What if summon kills someone? Summon requires human input, which by definition means someone has to push and hold some button, then agree to something, then push the button again. Plenty of opportunity NOT to crush someone.

You appear to think that some Autopilot feature caused the accident, when it appears to me that overly cautious settings or lack of additional features, failed to prevent or reduce the severity of the accident. But make no mistake, the human element was the initiator, whether from fatigue, poor judgment, or simple failure to follow instructions, in every accident I’ve seen so far.

Autopilot, Drivepilot and the other semi autonomous systems out there, may seem to some to be toys, but they’re the precursors to a huge shift in the driving paradigm, and I believe, here to stay.

While I agree with your overall points, I’ll nitpick about one detail: Tesla said it couldn’t reconfigure the fob to require holding the button down for Summon, altho it now works that way in the smartphone app. Perhaps Tesla will reconfigure the hardware in newly manufactured fobs. However, the requirement to hold down the button continuously appears to me to be something that’s eventually going to have to go away, as the functionality of Summon is expanded. Eventually, Summon is supposed to bring the car to your location from wherever it is, even when that requires autonomous driving on public roads. I expect to see, before very long, an upgrade of Summon to bring it from your garage to your front door, even if that requires the car to maneuver around the corner of your house. I would guess the following upgrade would be to Summon your car from a stall in a parking lot, for example when you park in a shopping mall. Sooner or later, Tesla will have to upgrade the sensor ability of its cars to reliably detect obstacles in front of it, so a car won’t run into or over anything (or anyone) even when no… Read more »

You’re right about the key fob Pushmi, I was thinking just of the phone app. Thanks for pointing that out.?


I thought the Gigafactory was just going to be 2 stories, but looking at this model, it appears to be 3 stories.

They’ve been saying “two stories” right along, so indeed this is surprising. I saw a mention of it being 3 stories just a day or two ago, in a comment on another InsideEVs article, but I thought that was an error.

I wonder if it’s going to be two stories in certain areas where they need a high ceiling on the first floor, and three stories in areas where they don’t?

At any rate, I see no evidence they’ve raised the height of the roof, so it seems to be just a matter of choosing how to divide up the internal space, into 2 or 3 stories.

This WSJ article from 4 days ago says 4-story:

“As of now, the gigafactory’s structure is less than one-sixth the size of what the final building is expected to occupy. Most exterior walls are temporary and can be relocated. Already finished is a four-story rectangular portion of the facility, housing 1.9 million square feet of floor space. ”

Source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/tesla-races-to-finish-gigafactory-in-time-for-model-3-rollout-1469404142

This has also been quoted here on InsideEVs yestrday: http://insideevs.com/tesla-races-finish-gigfactory-asap/

If the roof is 35 feet up, and 8 feet is your average height per story, then this is easily, a 4 Story tall building! However, in the model, it seems to be 10-12 feet, or more, per level in 3-Story configuration, and will likely be 16-18 feet per floor in 2-Story configuration, with variations in floor thickness, for how big the HVAC requirements are!

I think Robert is correct; any reference to “four stories” likely refers to the height of the Gigafactory building as compared to a normal office building, where 35 feet would most likely be divided up into 4 stories.

The height of the building is 71 feet.

Depending on what is needed, sometimes it is 2 stories, sometimes 3, and sometimes 4.

“18-650 was sort of an accident of history. That was what was standardized for early products. So we revisited all of those trade offs and came to this size (21-70), which is quite a bit bigger.”

So they are going to use 21700 cells instead of 20700 cells like they have always said?
Panasonic/Sanyo NCR20700A and NCR20700B cells are already for sale in this German battery webshop: http://akkuplus.de/PANASONIC-Industrial-Europe-GmbH__20700
The NCR20700A cells has already been used for a long time now in Metabo’s LiHD power tool batteries. And Bosch has also announced new power tool batteries coming this fall using 20700 (or 21700?) cells.
Currently Tesla use Panasonic NCR18650B cells for model S and X, so I would have though they were gogin to use the rather new Panasonic NCR20700B cells for Model 3.

Btw. Samsung SDI has also announced 21700 cells a while ago. Here’s a picture with specifications of the new Samsung 21700 cells compared to their 18650 cells:

In the same topic you can also find datsheets for the Panasonic/Sanyo NCR20700A/B cells.


Thanks for this image. I believe that 21700 with presented parameters (4750mAh) is for this time only a Samsung’s dream. Exactly as announced 120Ah prismatic module for BMW i3.

One thing confirming my assumption is that this 21700 cell do not have designation for serial production unlike the INR18650-35E (3500mAh) which is already in production.

The second thing is that only Samsung’s 21700 cell in serial production is INR21700-30T with 3750mAh and I believe that it is the only one 21700 cell in serial production at all (From what I know Panasonic already producing 20650 and 20700 formats only, LG is producing 20650).

Peter said:

“So they are going to use 21700 cells instead of 20700 cells like they have always said?”

I’m pretty sure you won’t find any case where any Tesla spokesman ever said “20700 cells”. That is an interpretation of exactly one mention of “20mm by 70mm” cells; a single quote which has been seized on, paraphrased, and endlessly reported as if it was Gospel… which obviously it wasn’t. Perhaps it was just an estimate in round numbers.

You’ll note this report doesn’t actually have any Tesla spokesman saying “21700 cells”; again that’s an interpretation. Possibly that’s correct, but let’s wait until Tesla actually makes an official announcement of the form factor before we start assuming it’s set in stone.

Given the volume that they are pushing for, they can probably make whatever size they want and be able to match, or beat, the cost of the “new” standard, mass-produced 20700 cells.

“I’m pretty sure you won’t find any case where any Tesla spokesman ever said “20700 cells”.”

Actually Elon Musk mentioned the 20700 cells at the Tesla Motors, Inc. 2016 Annual Shareholder Meeting:

“Total capacity aside, the biggest announcement is the confirmation that Tesla and Panasonic, the automaker’s strategic partner in the Gigafactory, will manufacture a new 20700 cell format – compared to the current 18650.”

Watch the full 3½ hour video of the 2016 Annual Shareholder Meeting: https://www.tesla.com/2016shareholdermeeting

The fact that they limit the diameter of the cells to 18 or 21 mm seems due to cooling requirements since the cell heat has to conductively travel through the cell from the inside towards its surface where the cooling loop collect it, but why do they limit to such a small hight of 65 or 70 mm? It would appear that a higher hight would be beneficial for overall pack energy content since 80 or 90 mm would still be acceptable on the bottom thickness of the car. That’s one genuine question I have that I never found a real clear answer on.

I wondered that too, since I seem to remember seeing an artist’s rendition of the Tesla battery pack, and the battery cells were stacked in multiple layers.

I remember thinking that they could increase the height of the battery and avoid layers. But I don’t know what the optimal height to diameter ratio might be…

It could be that twice as tall would be too tall for the diameter they want. And more than 70mm might be too tall for the number of layers they want.

70 mm is about 2.756 inches

I thought the entire battery pack is about 3-4 inches tall. That doesn’t give much room for the interconnect, shielding, cooling and other battery packing need.

So, I doubt that it would be double stacked or taller.

Nix said:

“…I seem to remember seeing an artist’s rendition of the Tesla battery pack, and the battery cells were stacked in multiple layers.”

Perhaps that was for the Tesla Roadster, where the battery pack was block-shaped and indeed the battery cells were stacked in layers. It’s not clear to me if they were sacked in there upright or laid flat, but since the arrangement was described as “sheets” and “pages” I’m guessing they were flat.

Contrariwise, in the much flatter Model S/X battery packs, the cells are arranged in an upright position in a single layer (photos in the link below).


Priusmaniac said: “The fact that they limit the diameter of the cells to 18 or 21 mm seems due to cooling requirements… but why do they limit to such a small hight of 65 or 70 mm?” I don’t think I’ve seen that question directly addressed, but to do some educated guesswork: I think at least partly it’s simple geometry. The surface area to volume ratio will go down if you make the cells longer, even if they aren’t any larger in diameter. And the lower the surface area to volume ratio is, the greater the problem with overheating on the interior. I note that in articles doing a deep dive into the Volt’s battery pack, it’s said the intent of the thermal management system is to prevent more than (if I recall correctly) 2° C temperature difference between the core of a cell and the exterior. Obviously larger cells have a greater problem with heat dissipation than smaller cells, and again this applies even if they’re merely longer but no greater in diameter. Also, perhaps it’s at least in part a safety concern. When li-ion batteries overheat, they swell up. A serious design flaw in the li-ion battery pack… Read more »
That’s interesting. Considering further I note the following. The surface to volume ratio evolve with the diameter increase but not so much with the length. The 18650 has an s/v of 0,252. The 21650 has an s/v of 0,221. The 21700 has an s/v of 0,219. The 21800 has an s/v of 0,215. The 21900 has an s/v of 0,212. The 212000 has an s/v of 0,200. The 2120000 has an s/v of 0,191. We can see a big shift between the 18650 and the 21650 but not so much between the 21650 and the 21900 and even stretching to 200 mm of length doesn’t give such a difference. You need to stretch to 2000 mm length to get the same s/v shift as going from 18 to 21 diameter. Now this is the s/v evolution but then we have to consider the Tesla cooling method which is a flat ribbon like tube passing along the cells which cooling effect is only proportional to the cell’s reachable side surface. So that is for a given diameter actually giving a better cooling the longer the cell is because the cell section end surface do not touch the ribbon and are kind… Read more »

Why not longer? Take a look at BMW i3. The prismatic cells in that one are about 15 cm high (+ connectors). Note the impact on the hight of the car.
In addition, a longer cell with more energy causes (as mentionaed already) inhomogeneities in current distribution. The inside of a cylindrical cell is a tight roll of electrode layers and separators. In order to get the current in and out, thin metal strips are attached at specific places in the electrode foil (one or two per electrode is standard). For a very long cell, one would have to reduce the maximum C-rate significantly, otherwise the connectors can’t handle it any more. More connectors would be a solution, but that’s a more complex design that costs energy density (no active material at the position of the connector!)

As reported in Electrek from a reporter who was actually there:

“They actually changed the size to 21mm diameter and a 70mm height. They also got rid of the trailing ‘0’ so the name of the battery that will be going into the Model 3 is the ’21-70′”

The article is titled: Tesla Gigafactory: new building permits show $63 million in latest expansions, new battery module lines.


In other battery news, Sony is selling their battery division to Murata. Sony is the company that first commercialized the Li-ion battery in the early 90s.


Looking that that picture of the 3 guys . . .

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

Hmmmm … are you referring to the fact that one is a multibillionaire while the two others are merely multimillionaires?

all I want to hear about is this magic “machine that makes the machine”

I want to know how they have changed the fairly standard production machines. Argon studied all of it and broke into basic steps.

How has Tesla changed the manufacturing process…..in detail explanation.

I doubt we will be getting an answer too soon.

Well, in part this seems to be hype. Sure, when it comes to battery cells, the production line is more complex than the finished cells. That applies to a great many products, perhaps most things that are manufactured.

And Elon lately has been talking up this idea he has that manufacturing should be treated as a physics problem. He claims a startling amount of increase in efficiency is possible, by focusing on basic principles such as time and distance. Elon claims factories can be make more efficient by “factors of 10 or even 100 times.”

Seems to me he’s vastly oversimplifying the challenges of manufacturing, and vastly overstating how much room there is for improvement.

But perhaps Elon will prove me wrong and show how much efficiency there is to be gained with his approach.


Elon has said this about both the Freemont car manufacturing and Gigafactory battery cell manufacturing processes, but he is also speaking more generally about most manufacturing. Like many of his comments there are tangible elements of truth mixed with insight, hope, and hyperbole. He has also spoken about artificial intelligence and bringing more of the “Silicon Valley” processes to car manufacturing and now battery cell manufacturing. Just like Tesla’s continuous improvement philosophy was new to the business. He sees that combined with the rapid advancement in many technologies such as materials, sensors, automation, etc as a path for continuous future improvements in addition to some they’ve already made and others they are already working on.


If elon applies time and distance he’ll end up with a factory with the shape : cube. 2-4 story is a good start. Unfortunately poor human is limited due to gravity…

Space x? Mars? I don’t think so. Mars is not the goal… The goal is a gigantic cube shaped factory in space. (a sphere would also be nice but has drawbacks) imagine that gigafactory with what (too lazy to calculate 100-1000 stories filled with borg (those who work…)).


Sorry I forgot to mention that elon himself will sleep in a bag located in the center of the cube (the end of the line is in that exact point from there a hyperloop tube (with a diameter just sufficient to hold a Tesla minivan ) will shoot out the produced cars at a machine gun fire rate. And in order to not have a single point of failure (don’t pin me down to the Center point… ) gigafactory can shoot into 5 directions… (five because it really makes no sense to shoot them to the center of the earth unless you believe in every conspiracy theory… )

Joke aside. The higher the building the shorter the ways…