On Wednesday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company will break ground on the first of at least two "gigafactory" sites this June. The $5 billion gigafactory project, announced in February, will help the vehicle manufacturer mass-produce electric batteries that cars like the Model S require to zip along quietly. If all proceeds according to plan, the gigafactory could start production in 2017, with each factory creating 6,500 jobs for the local economy.
One asterisk, though: Musk did not specify where the gigafactory would be located. Forbes reports that originally four Southwest states (Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas) were in contention for the new manufacturing site. California, however, which wasn't originally in the running because of strict environmental hurdles, might again be a possible destination according to Musk, due to Gov. Jerry Brown's open push to make expediting a gigafactory in the state possible.
Despite keeping the public in the dark geography-wise, each site is projected to produce lithium ion batteries for some 500,000 cars each year. Tesla claims that each plant, once finished, "will have driven down the per kWh cost of our battery pack by more than 30%."
Cheaper batteries tie into Tesla's long-term strategy to hook a growing and passionate consumer base (think: Apple). Tesla needs the public to rally behind it, too, as the company faces regulatory headwinds from several state legislatures—most recently in New York—which argue that Tesla's direct-sale business model is anticompetitive.
The gigafactory is projected to open in 2020.
[Image: Flickr user Steve Jurvetson]