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Any Way It's Measured, Tesla's $5B 'Gigafactory' Is Huge

Just how big a deal is the "gigafactory" that Tesla Motors says it's going to build to make batteries for its electric cars?

-- It's projected to cost $5 billion between now and the year 2020. Tesla expects to invest about $2 billion. Partners — who it's rumored could include Apple and Panasonic — would invest the rest.

-- The plant would eventually employ about 6,500 people, Tesla says.

-- At its peak the factory would produce 500,000 vehicle batteries per year, the company projects. That's more than the current combined output from all such factories in the world.

-- The facility would cover about 10 million square feet. That's more than twice the size of the Mall of America.

-- There's surely going to be stiff competition from the four states that Tesla says are its finalists to be the factory's location: Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada. Bloomberg News says there's going to be "a bidding war."

-- This huge investment is one of the keys, analysts say, to Tesla's effort to keep cutting the cost of its cars, which now start at $71,000. It's hoping to debut a model that retails for about $40,000 sometime next year.

As veteran auto writer Micheline Maynard writes for Forbes, Tesla founder Elon Musk is "taking on a manufacturing project that might give pause to companies with much more experience." She also notes, though, that "whether it's shooting rockets into space, or building a $70,000 electric luxury car ... Musk has never shied away from a challenge."

He's a big dreamer, as All Tech Considered has said before: "A Closer Look At Elon Musk's Much-Hyped Hyperloop."

Tesla expects to choose the site for its gigafactory and begin construction later this year. If all goes as planned, battery production would begin in 2017.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.