A top Tesla executive stopped by the University of Nevada, Reno, Sunday to talk about the future of transportation and battery technology. As Reno Public Radio's Julia Ritchey reports, the company is ramping up construction at its new gigafactory in northern Nevada.
Tesla's co-founder and Chief Technical Officer J.B. Straubel says the first employees will begin work at its gigafactory outside of Reno in just a few weeks.
"Construction here has moved extremely fast; it's part of why we wanted to be in Nevada in the first place," he says.
The company is in the middle of building one of the world's largest battery factories, which will eventually supply enough batteries for 500,000 electric cars a year.
Straubel gave an overview of the company's other upcoming projects, including a more affordable electric car called the Model III and battery packs for home and commercial use.
He says by building batteries closer to where Tesla manufacture their cars, it will reduce their carbon footprint and make them cheaper for consumers.
"And we're able to achieve an economy of scale that will drive the price down on energy storage much faster than people expected," he says.
Tesla is also launching a new internship specifically for the gigafactory in Nevada. Straubel did not provide details on the program but encouraged local students to apply.
"We're here to stay, we don't want a workforce that's imported from somewhere else,” he says. “And as many people as we can bring on board and recruit from the local community, it makes that tie even stronger."
Straubel says Tesla hires about one-third of their interns as full-time employees.
He did not take questions from the public, including media, but did answer a few pointed questions from UNR engineering students.
"Hi, my name is McKenzie Cole; I'm an environmental engineering major. And I'd like to ask Tesla what they're doing to cut emissions produced by their factories?"
Straubel replied that Tesla's gigafactory will be a zero-emissions facility and will be covered in solar panels.