Tesla might build Czech car gigafactory

Elon Musk's firm plans to greatly increase electric car output worldwide

US-based electric car maker Tesla Motors plans to build a European factory, and a location near Prague is among the sites under consideration according to media reports. The site would be another gigafactory, and make lithium-ion batteries and electric cars. The final decision on a location has not been made, and sites in Hungary, Poland and Romania are also under consideration.

Tesla Motors, which is run by entrepreneur and inventor Elon Musk, is building Gigafactory 1 in Tahoe Reno Industrial Center (TRIC) Nevada. It is the world's largest building by physical area. It is also the world's second-largest building by usable space following the Boeing Everett Factory.

The gigafactory creates its own power using renewable energy and is designed to have a minimal impact on the environment. The agigfactory will reduce the production costs for electric car batteries and charging stations by up to 30 percent. It opened July 29, 2016, but is only partly finished. Gigafactory 1 currently builds lithium batteries and in the future when it is finished will likely also build charging stations, motors and complete cars.

Musk announced in early November that a European site would also be built, without specifying where. The announcement came when Tesla was finishing an agreement to acquire Grohmann Engineering, a German firm that specializes in automated manufacturing. A new unit called Tesla Advanced Automation Germany will be launched. The move is the first significant acquisition of an existing company by Tesla, and it also greatly increases Tesla's presence in Europe.

Technology website The Space Invader announced Nov. 19 that a site near Prague was being considered for the European gigafactory, but did not name its sources.

Tesla has announced ambitious goals for electric car production, and it will need additional factories to meet those goals. A week after Gigfactory 1 opened, Musk acknowledged that it was still insufficient to meet demand. Aside from Europe, Tesla is also contemplating a gigafactory in Japan. Tesla's first electric car model, the Tesla Roadster, was launched in 2008.

There is already a large number of automobile makers based in the Czech Republic as well as related suppliers. The central location of the Czech Republic combined with lower costs for labor compared to Western Europe, a pro-business political environment and good infrastructure have made the Central European country a top contender for large technical industries.

What may prove a significant attraction for Tesla is that the Czech Republic also has a supply of lithium, one of the key resources needed for the electric car batteries. The Czech News Agency reported in June that one of the biggest European deposits of lithium can be found in Dubí in the Ústí nad Labem region and a company called Geomet has become interested in mining it, inspired in part by Musk's statement that lithium is the “new gasoline.”

The Czech automotive industry employs more than 150,000 people and accounts for more than 20 percent of both Czech manufacturing output and Czech exports, according to state agency CzechInvest. The country has the world's highest output of cars per capita and is 15th worldwide in total output.

Škoda Auto, a division of Germany's Volkswagen, is the largest industry in the country and biggest exporter. There is also joint factory for Toyota, Peugeot and Citroën in Central Bohemia and a factory for Hyundia in Moravia.

The Tesla name is not unknown in the Czech Republic, and there is already a stained glass window near Wenceslas Square with the Tesla brand name. A Czechoslovak manufacturing firm has used the Tesla name since 1946, and had a state monopoly on electronics. Several subsidiaries of that firm still exist and use the Tesla name in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but are unrelated to Tesla Motors.

The name Tesla refers to Croatian-born American inventor Nikola Tesla, who among other things helped to popularize the use of alternating current electricity as opposed to the direct current favored by Thomas Edison.

For more visit www.tesla.com/gigafactory

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