The Importance of Elon Musk’s Gigafactories

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of InQuire Media

Image courtesy of Tesla

For a man that is often seen wearing an Occupy Mars T-shirt, Elon Musk seems to be doing an awful lot to keep mankind on this planet, certainly more than any other high-profile business entrepreneurs. When you ask people about Elon Musk the responses are often mixed; no doubt naming his first child ‘X Æ A-12’ doesn’t help. If you ask those same people what he does, you will also get the same spectrum of answers, detailing Elon’s various well-documented business ventures, whether it is Tesla’s meteoric rise or revolutionising commercial travel with SpaceX. Even digging tunnels for electric shuttles across LA, or the creation of The Boring Company’s ‘Not a Flamethrower’. Whatever he does, it gets coverage… except in the case of the Tesla Gigafactory.

You would absolutely be forgiven for not knowing what the Tesla Gigafactory is. Perhaps the reason it isn’t as well known is because on the surface, it’s just a battery and car assembly line. However, its applications are so much more. The single greatest barrier to overcoming climate change is the economic viability of fossil fuels. Profit margins perverse the economy with growth-centric models, demanding that all commodities and services are as cheap as possible in order to turn as large a profit as possible. Renewable energy alternatives require investment, investment which isn’t favourable with the short-term mindset of the business world. So how can the Tesla Gigafactory combat this shortcoming? By flooding the market with lithium-ion batteries charged from a renewable energy source, which just so happens to be the factory itself.

When a Gigafactory is complete, its entire roof will be covered in solar panels, with the factory holding the record for the largest physical footprint of any building in the world. The solar energy collected is used to run the factory and to charge the lithium-ion batteries that are produced. As a result, the Gigafactory presents the renewable energy industry with a way to make batteries affordable and in turn, provide consumers and businesses alike with a viable alternative to fossil fuels.

According to Elon, the creation of 100 of these factories alone would be enough to supply the entire world with sustainable energy. Only 100. And, given the extent of investment into renewable solutions from nations across the globe, there is no reason why carbon neutrality can’t be achieved within 10 years or less.

100 factories. That’s it! A completely achievable solution. Only problem is, Tesla can’t build all 100. Given the size and scale of the operation, it is meant to be a blueprint for other nations and businesses to adopt so that we can all achieve a sustainable future. Tesla currently has three Gigafactories in operation, with a fourth being pushed for approval. A substantial contribution for one company, think about what 10 could achieve? What could the world’s superpower nations achieve?

The real question is, as always, what can I do about it? Climate consciousness is something that needs to be a part of everyday life. With such a short window for change, it is of paramount importance that we arm ourselves with the necessary information to consume smarter and to engage/demand more from the political institutions and big businesses around us. The key to this success, as aforementioned, is making renewable solutions cheaper. What we can do is push for the production of a Gigafactory in the UK and, for a universal carbon tax that forces businesses to be climate conscious to achieve that same profit margin.

Every day counts, please don’t waste it.

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First published in 1965, InQuire is the University of Kent student newspaper.

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