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Tesla Gigafactory 3’s rise shows that it’s too early to dismiss Elon Musk’s ‘sci-fi projects’

(Credit: Jason Yang/Twitter)

A drone flyover of Gigafactory 3 on Monday has revealed that the factory shell of Tesla’s China-based electric car production facility is all but complete. Only a few small sections of the massive general assembly building do not have roofing yet, and the same is true for Gigafactory 3’s walls. Around the facility’s grounds, workers continued their activities, and cement trucks were seen heading inside the massive factory, hinting at the work being started inside.

Other sections of Tesla’s Gigafactory 3 complex are coming to form as well, including what appears to be dormitories for employees and a possible open-air event staging area. Outside the factory, several large trucks are loaded with massive machinery, seemingly intended for use on the 24/7 construction site. Shanghai officials have noted that Gigafactory 3’s initial construction would be done by May. Considering the progress of the buildout as of Monday, this target appears more than feasible.

The pace of Gigafactory 3’s construction is unprecedented, and it is one that will likely make it to books in the future. China itself, which holds a solid reputation for quick, surgically-precise buildouts, will probably set records with the construction of Gigafactory 3. As Tesla’s electric car factory in Shanghai rises, it is pertinent to note that there was a time, not too long ago, when the idea of Gigafactory 3’s factory shell being completed in roughly five months was considered implausible.

Just over two months ago, Gigafactory 3 was comprised of leveled ground and one steel pillar. A few months before that, it was but a muddy field. Go back a few more months and one will find Elon Musk’s initial announcement for the project’s target timeframe, where the brazen CEO estimated that Tesla would start producing electric cars in the Shanghai facility within two years from construction. During that time, Musk’s two-year timeframe was considered in the United States as “not feasible.” Convention demands car factories to be built over years, after all.

Yet here it stands now, tangible, and ahead of Elon Musk’s own target schedule. After Gigafactory 3’s shell is completed this May, the facility is set to undergo ground hardening in June. These will be followed by pipeline communication, equipment stationing, equipment commissioning, and trial production runs, which could start as early as September barring any unexpected issues. This means that by the end of the year, Gigafactory 3 might already hit some of its stride in the production of Tesla’s midsize electric sedan.

Tesla is simply not a conventional company, and neither is its projects. It’s a disruptor that has reached a critical mass — no longer small enough to be ignored, but not yet large enough to warrant unquestionable respect. This, together with Elon Musk’s persona, both in real life and online, has brought a lot of attention to Tesla. Unfortunately, most of this attention today are predominantly negative, as could be seen in the overarching narrative surrounding the company. An example of this could be seen in a recent note published by Wedbush analyst Dan Ives, where he criticized Tesla and Elon Musk for pursuing “sci-fi” projects like Full Self-Driving, an in-house insurance service, and a Robotaxi network.

Elon Musk is an optimist, and this shows when he announced target timeframes for projects like the Model 3 ramp or the release of features such as Advanced Summon. Nevertheless, Elon Musk might tend to overpromise and deliver late; but his ideas, his visions, are not implausible. They might sound like ideas that are straight out of science fiction, but he, Tesla, SpaceX, and his other ventures are hard at work making that science fiction a reality. There was a time, after all, where people thought replacing the yellow pages, or managing their money through the internet, or landing rockets on a drone ship, was an insane idea. And yet here we are.

Here’s Tesla’s Gigafactory 3 site as of Monday, May 20, 2019.

And here’s the site back in late January.

Tesla Gigafactory 3’s rise shows that it’s too early to dismiss Elon Musk’s ‘sci-fi projects’
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