by Emil Morhardt
An extremely interesting article by Peter Elkind in the current issue of Fortune magazine looks at the evolution of the siting decision for the largest lithium battery factory in the world; by 2020 it will equal the world’s current production. This is particularly interesting to me because I’ve been following one side of the location decision on the University of Nevada Reno NPR station, which I get in Bishop, California, and because I bought a lithium-battery gas-hybrid car over the weekend (not, I’m sorry to report, a Tesla—the least expensive version of Tesla’s Model S all-electric sedan costs $71,000, well above my vehicle price tolerance), and I could clearly see that a plug-in hybrid would be preferable if the batteries cost less and I thought they would be reliable. Same for the Tesla cars for which the batteries constitute at least a quarter of the cost according to the Inside EVs website.
The Fortune article is about the crafty business practices of Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, a clever man indeed who founded PayPal, is Chairman of SolarCity, a solar panel manufacturer (the batteries in Teslas will need to be charged—why not at home?) and the founder of SpaceX, one of the two private companies flying to the International Space Station. His cleverness in extracting the maximum benefits from all the states in which he proposed placing the factory, and how it finally got situated next to the Mustang Ranch (not a Ford dealer) near Reno, Nevada are instructive. Good luck on your price negotiations should you ever find yourself inside a Tesla showroom. Musk has evidently bet the company on this new factory, just beginning construction, but based on his past successes, I’d bet that we’ll see the price of the batteries in electric cars fall precipitously in the coming years.
Elkind, Peter. 2014. Inside Elon Musk’s $1.4 billion score. Fortune. Dec 1, 2014:118–132.