Tesla project Roadrunner calls for expanded battery plant in Fremont

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Tesla is currently working on a project dubbed Roadrunner to build a new battery research and manufacturing facility. That’s not surprising, but its location may be. According to documents from the Fremont, California, city government, Tesla filed paperwork to build the plant near its current factory in the city. It’s not clear how this plant might affect Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s desire to move his electric car company out of California.

Furious that the Tesla plant had been ordered closed during the coronavirus lockdown, Musk suggested in a tweet in May, “If we even retain Fremont manufacturing activity at all, it will be dependent on how Tesla is treated in the future.” The latest reports suggest that Tesla is looking closely at breaking ground for a new manufacturing plant in Texas or Oklahoma to build its Model Y crossover and Cybertruck.

The plan signals the U.S. electric vehicle maker’s efforts to make its own automotive batteries, EVs’ most expensive components. Earlier this month, Tesla signed a deal with Panasonic to manufacture and supply lithium-ion battery cells at the automaker’s Gigafactory in Nevada. Tesla currently produces batteries with Japan’s Panasonic at the Gigafactory near Reno. It also has battery contracts with South Korea’s LG Chem and China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology.

Tesla, which said it currently has a “small-scale” battery manufacturing operation in Fremont, applied for city government approval to build an expanded battery operation. It estimated construction of the project, including the installation of all manufacturing equipment, can be completed in around three months.

Workers assigned to the facility would total 470, of which 400 would “work in shifts, such that there are 100 employees working at manufacturing and production operations at any given time, all day, every day.”

Tesla did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

Musk earlier this week said it will give a tour of Tesla’s battery cell production on Sept. 15, the tentative date for what the automaker has dubbed Battery Day.

Material from Reuters was used in this report.

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Saurabh Shukla

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