It must be nice to be Elon Musk, what with states vying for your attention. But Nevada has won out, according to reports.
All the fuss is for a Tesla Motors Gigafactory, a multibillion dollar facility that will manufacture lithium batteries to run the car manufacturer's electric cars. The Gigafactory is a big deal because it will greatly improve economic conditions in the state it will call home, including generating 6,500 jobs when it is completed.
New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, California and even Washington joined the fray, but Nevada appears to be the best choice for Elon Musk and Tesla Motors. Why? Simply put, Nevada has everything Tesla Motors would need: lower costs, fewer regulations to deal with, close to Fremont, Calif., where the Tesla headquarters is located and, most important, abundant lithium resources nearby.
Making lithium batteries is actually easy. It's getting lithium that complicates the manufacturing process. Most of the lithium used in batteries is mined from Australia, South America and China, so it makes sense for lithium-ion batteries to be produced where the metal is mined. China, for instance, has large manufacturing plants churning out almost all of the lithium-ion batteries used in the world, including those fitted inside Tesla cars.
And Tesla Motors needs a lot of them because just one Tesla Model S needs 7,000 pieces of lithium-ion cells. This is why if the car manufacturer plans to make its own batteries, it's natural to choose a location that will make it easy to get the raw materials needed for production.
Several lithium sources have been located in North America but the only lithium mine in operation in the U.S. is in Silver Peak, located about halfway between Las Vegas and Reno. Rockwood Lithium Inc. harvests the metal through traditional continental lithium brine and is equipped to double its production capacity thanks to a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2010. Nevada is also home to the Western Lithium Corp., a startup set to go into production in 2015 by using herotite clay to produce lithium carbonate.
Tesla Motors plans to produce up to 500,000 cars a year by 2020 so ensuring there's more than enough batteries to go around is necessary. That shouldn't be a problem, though, because the Gigafactory will be one of the biggest facilities in the world, larger than all lithium-ion factories combined, according to Musk.