Tesla opens doors to electric auto factory (photos)
Tesla Motors officially reopens the former NUMMI auto plant in the Bay Area, where they will soon begin manufacturing the Model S.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Senator Dianne Feinstein hold a press conference for the opening of Tesla's new manufacturing plant, the former New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI), on October 27, 2010. Up until April, the plant had been producing Toyota Corollas and Tacomas, and had been opened as a joint venture between GM and Toyota in 1984.
During the conference, Senator Feinstein talked of the jobs lost by the plant's closing, and how Tesla would begin to restore those jobs. She also spoke of the viability of high-tech manufacturing in California.
As part of the press conference, Tesla unveiled its new sign over the plant. This new Tesla manufacturing facility will be devoted to Model S production, Tesla's premium electric sedan. Production is slated to begin in early 2012.
Currently, Tesla has about 70 people employed at the former NUMMI plant. They are involved in building up the initial production capabilities. Tesla says that for its initial production target of 10,000 Model S sedans per year it will need 500 people, and hopes to quickly double that number as demand for the car grows.
Gilbert Passin, vice president of manufacturing for Tesla, leads us on our factory tour, explaining how the Model S production line will be laid out. He is responsible for designing the production process, and focused on efficiency as the primary virtue for the new line.
Tesla marked out the south end of the plant for Model S production. It is the newest area of NUMMI, and close to both the stamping mills, where body parts will be made, and the plastics factory. The area shown here is where fully assembled Model S sedans will roll off the production line, undergo final quality testing, and be sent through these doors out into the world.
The NUMMI plant covers 5.5 million square feet, but as the initial Model S production line will cover little of that space, 80 percent of the plant will be mothballed. Tesla hopes to eventually use that extra space for new types of vehicles.
As a further equipment demonstration, this robotic tractor was programmed to follow a line on the floor, stop underneath a cart full of car parts, attach pins underneath, and move the cart to a new location.
The pit in the floor here will host a hydraulic stamping mill for manufacturing aluminum body panels. As NUMMI did not have any hydraulic stamping mills, Tesla purchased one, and is readying the pit for this massive piece of machinery.