New aerial photos obtained by Teslarati show party preparations for Tesla’s upcoming July 29 Gigafactory event are well underway. Photos of Tesla’s $5 billion high-tech battery plant located 20 miles east of Reno, Nevada reveal that the electric automaker turned energy company has perched a large white tent off the main road, rightfully named Electric Avenue, that leads into the Gigafactory.
Several tractor trailers are seen surrounding the tent with a pair of trailers positioned in a way that would suggest cargo was being unloaded into the tent. Taking into account that commercial tractor trailers are generally 53 feet in length, we approximate the tent to be about 210 feet in length and 105 feet wide, or twice the size of a professional NBA basketball court.
Also seen in the photos taken on Sunday, July 24 by local flight instructor Josh Mcdonald are roughly 2,000 newly painted parking spaces located directly west of Tesla’s Gigafactory 1. Tesla will be providing valet parking for those driving to Gigafactory 1 via Electric Avenue, but will also have shuttle service departing from downtown Reno to the battery plant. Though Tesla has not disclosed the planned attendance figure for the highly anticipated event, we know CEO Elon Musk isn’t one to shy away from throwing a good party. Both the Tesla ‘D event’ and the Model X unveiling each drew between 4,000 – 6,000 in attendance.
Looking forward to the Gigafactory opening party on Friday next week. The scale blows me away every time I see it.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 22, 2016
Tesla will also be providing factory tours of Gigafactory 1 as well as “test rides” according to event details outlined on the company’s official invitation to the July 29 party. There’s been speculation that Tesla will be providing event attendees rides in the final version of the Model 3 which completed design late last month.
We know that Musk has said in the past that Tesla will “do the obvious thing” regarding Autopilot on the Model 3. Contrary to Tesla’s current semi-autonomous driving feature which has seen its share of negative press after the first fatality occurred behind the wheel of a Model S on Autopilot, many believe that the obvious thing in this case is a fully autonomous vehicle capable of driving on its own with no human intervention.
Looking at a close up of the area near the white tent, we can see a section leading to a paved road that runs alongside the expansive parking lot, and around the outer perimeter of the factory lot. Zooming into the photo even more and you can see the paved road is painted with very clear lane markings, perhaps to ensure that Autopilot 2.0 sensors have all of the cues needed for a successful demo. What we’re seeing here might in fact be a test track where rides will take place.
Musk’s vision for the future includes the use of Tesla’s battery plant as the supplier of li-ion cells for its upcoming fleet of Tesla trucks, semis and home and commercial energy solutions.
Tesla broke ground on its first Gigafactory in June 2014 and is expected to produce 105 gigawatt hours of battery cells when it reaches full production in 2020, and becomes the world’s largest producer and consumer of li-ion battery cells.
The four completed sections of the Gigafactory to date represents only 15% of the overall total size when completed. Josh Mcdonald of Nevada Tailwheel tells us, “Tesla has begun construction on the next phase of the Gigafactory as seen from the newly graded sections with concrete and steel pylons forming the base of the foundation directly to the north and south of the factory”.
We’ve outlined in red a few key areas of the Gigafactory seen from the aerial photo. Among the areas outlined are new sections north and south of the existing building, a helicopter landing zone and the security guard shack on Electric Avenue.