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Elon Musk called Tesla’s lithium refinery a “money-printing machine” — and now, the system is set to debut earlier than initially projected and may also expand in scope.
The plant’s primary purpose is to produce lithium hydroxide that can be used in Tesla’s production of battery cells at the company’s Gigafactory in Austin, Texas, according to Electrek. A secondary goal is to demonstrate the power of Tesla’s cheaper new processing system, which could become an industry-wide standard if it’s successful, thus transforming the electric vehicle industry yet again.
In May, Musk stated that the plant would have the capacity to make enough lithium to support the production of around 1 million EVs annually. The company is investing $365 million in the plant and plans to hire about 165 full-time employees.
Tesla’s previous timeline estimate suggested that production would begin in 2025, following the completion of construction in 2024.
Now, it seems the schedule has advanced, as Jason Bevan, Tesla’s senior manager of operations, stated that production may start as early as next year.
“We will begin commissioning the assets, roughly the first of next year, and that will continue, in earnest, over the first half of next year,” Bevan said at a fair at FEMA Dome at Del Mar College’s Windward Campus, according to KIIITV. “They will start ramping up production the latter half of next year.”
Bevan also teased further investment into the facility. “We have property that is well suited for a future expansion, beyond these first two trains, so I think there is ample opportunity for further economic impact beyond just those direct employees that we hire,” he explained.
Tesla’s investment in new technologies like lithium processing should be a win for the environment, as any step taken toward streamlining the production and sale of EVs is a step toward decreasing our collective carbon pollution. The average gas-guzzling car produces more than 10,000 pounds of carbon pollution per year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. EVs, on the other hand, have substantially reduced footprints when it comes to pollution, so expanding our ability to drive them has a positive effect on the planet.
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