Elon and Leo on saving the world, one Gigafactory at a time

Elon and Leo on saving the world, one Gigafactory at a time

A tour of the Tesla Gigafactory during construction in February 2016 shows off its massive interior. (Steve Jurvetson/Creative Commons)

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“We actually did the calculations to see what it would take to transition the whole world to sustainable energy. You’d need 100 Gigafactories,” said CEO of Tesla Motors Inc., Elon Musk, to U.N. Messenger of Peace on Climate Change, Leonardo DiCaprio.

OK, back up.

The first thing you may be thinking is: Since when does Leonardo DiCaprio have anything to do with climate change or the United Nations? He’s usually too busy freezing to death off the Titanic or messing around with Quaaludes as a “Wolf of Wall Street.” But DiCaprio has been involved with environmental issues since back in the day when there actually was a Clinton in office. 

Anyways, DiCaprio spent two years traveling the world to film his documentary on climate change called, “Before the Flood.” The culminating end will have you on the edge of your seat in an apocalyptic finale, which is all indisputably and unfortunately backed up with real science. (Watch the trailer here: https://youtu.be/6UGsRcxaSAI)

But let’s get back to what we were talking about. What the heck is a Gigafactory? And how is it going to save the world?

In 2014, construction of the Tesla Gigafactory began in Reno, Nevada, with the mission of generating greater outputs of lithium ion batteries to keep up with the increasing demand of electric cars in the global market. By 2018, the Gigafactory will be working at full capacity, and “will be powered by renewable energy sources, with the goal of achieving net zero energy,” according to the Tesla website. It will create more lithium ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013, and Musk said, “It will actually be bigger than the sum of all lithium ion factories in the world.” The planned battery production capacity will be 35 gigawatt-hours (GWh) per year.

Here we have some riveting energy math:

1 GWh = 1 million KWh = 1 billion watts for one hour

Think of the good we could do with 35 gigawatt-hours of clean energy. The reduction in carbon emissions and other pollutants from our current reliance on fossil fuels will be a pretty big deal, to say the least.

Now imagine a world with 100 Gigafactories and 3500 gigawatt-hours ruling the planet. This is where we need to get to, but we can’t just tell our pal Elon to finish saving the world for us. “Tesla can’t build 100 Gigafactories. The thing that is really going to make a difference is if companies that are much bigger than Tesla do the same thing,” Musk said.

So this is where we are right now. We need 100 Gigafactories. We need the major global corporations with the biggest environmental impacts to make real investments in their sustainable futures, aka our futures. Most importantly, we need to get this done before there are no more icebergs left for the Titanic to crash Leo into, because he does a damn good job at dying for the love of his life.

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