A glimpse inside Tesla’s super secretive Gigafactory
Secret, super secret and top secret
We’ve been invited in for an early look, but that doesn’t mean we have an all-access pass. Even in most of the areas in which we are allowed, cameras generally aren’t (I’d have brought more pictures back if I could, I promise).
For every machine we’re able to see, two are shrouded under tarps. We enter a room with one machine that nearly scrapes the roof 40 feet above us — covered, of course, in 40 feet of tarp.
“Are those tarps there because it’s not finished yet, or because the machine is secret?” I ask.
“A bit of both,” replies someone from Tesla.
“What does that one do?”
“I can’t say.”
“What part of the process is it for?”
“Battery production.” (Essentially everything in this factory is ultimately for battery production.)
“Can you tell me anything else?”
“It’s part of either the cathode or anode process” — essentially a fancier way of saying that it’s for making batteries.
“Okay! On to the next room.”
The next room has another 40-foot tall machine, still covered. They won’t tell us what this one does, either.
So what’s the reason for the secrecy?
Ultimately, the Gigafactory isn’t just big for the sake of being big. Tesla, in partnership with Panasonic, is putting $5 billion into this place to have a playground on which they can build all the things they can’t build elsewhere. They’re building new stuff here to help them drive down the costs of the batteries they need… and they don’t want anyone to know exactly how it all comes together.
“[This factory] deserves more attention from creative problem solving engineers than the product it makes,” Musk would later tell us in a Q&A. “Over time… the majority of our engineering will actually go into designing the factory as a product itself… If we take a creative engineering person and apply them to designing the factory — this machine that makes the machine — they make 5 to 10 times the headway per hour than if they’re trying to improve the products it makes.”