The electric vehicles producer is already plotting an expansion. Courtesy of Tesla

Less than a year after Tesla opened its factory in Texas, the maker of electric vehicles is already plotting an expansion.

A permit application filed June 29 with the City of Austin and approved July 1 shows Austin-based Tesla plans to build a two-floor, 500,000-square-foot space to enlarge its General Assembly 2 and General Assembly 3 operations. Currently, Tesla produces Model Y vehicles at the 2,500-acre site, which is along State Highway 130 near State Highway 71 East.

The 500,000-square-foot expansion, first reported by Tesla watcher Sawyer Merritt, would grow the size of the factory by more than 11 percent.

Production at the plant began late last year. In April, Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk hosted an invitation-only grand opening bash at the factory.

The Tesla permit doesn’t indicate how much the expansion will cost. But we can get an idea by looking at how much the factory cost to build.

Paperwork filed last year with the Texas Department of Licensing and Registration identified $1.06 billion in construction expenses for nearly 4.3 million square feet of space. That works out to $247 per square foot. If you apply that figure to the proposed expansion, it would cost nearly $124 million. Of course, that’s a rough estimate, and construction costs have gone up since the existing factory was finished.

The proposed expansion comes as overall production at Tesla’s plants has tapered off. According to the Reuters news service, analysts predict Tesla will report second-quarter deliveries of 295,078 vehicles. That would be below the record-setting total of 310,048 vehicle deliveries in the first quarter.

It’s not known precisely how many vehicles Tesla is producing at the Austin plant, but industry insiders estimate the total ranges from 2,000 to 5,000 vehicles per week. The Electrek blog says Tesla is aiming to manufacture 10,000 vehicles per week there by the end of this year.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Now that Tesla's vehicle manufacturing factory is up and running, the company is planning another facility adjacent to the site. Courtesy of Tesla

Tesla cranks up Texas expansion with plans for massive new facility

driving more growth

Tesla has barely begun manufacturing electric vehicles at its new factory in east Travis County, and it’s already planning an expansion.

The Austin-based automaker is eyeing a 32-acre site adjacent to its auto manufacturing plant to build a nearly 1.6-million-square-foot industrial facility that would produce cathodes for battery manufacturing, as first reported by the Electrek industry website.

Tesla owns about 2,100 acres where the new 4.3-million-square-foot factory stands. The factory started producing vehicles late last year.

An application submitted earlier this month for an Austin building permit lists Colorado River Project LLC as a co-applicant for a project named “Cathode,” according to the Reuters news service. That’s the corporate name Tesla has used throughout the permitting process for the new factory. A spokeswoman for Austin Development Services Department told Reuters that the latest permit is for a Tesla cathode facility.

Reuters explains that cathodes are the most expensive component of a battery, and making them requires a lot of space and emits significant amounts of carbon dioxide.

It’s unclear when construction on the Tesla cathode facility might start and how many people it might employ. The Tesla car manufacturing plant is expected to employ at least 5,000 people.

A search of Tesla’s website found one job posting in Austin that contains the word “cathode.” The company is seeking an “energetic and engaging” quality supervisor to lead one of the first teams of quality technicians for Tesla’s “Cathode Quality Control Lab.”

“You will exercise your exceptional people skills to delegate tasks and guide personnel in developing one of Tesla’s newest manufacturing teams. Your proven record of driving improvements and agility in responding to quality excursions will enable you to set the tone for the rest of the team,” the job posting says.

Last year, Tesla moved its headquarters from Northern California to 2,100-acre site in east Travis County.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Austin-based Tesla has released new information on its Megapack project, which is being stood up south of Houston in Angleton. Screenshot via YouTube.

Tesla reveals details on massive power storage facility being built south of Houston

texas-sized energy project

Tesla Inc. has taken the wraps off a backup-power storage project in Angleton designed to ease the impact of incidents like February 2021’s near-collapse of the Texas power grid.

The project’s 81 Tesla Megapacks are aimed at providing backup power while reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Tesla says its Megapack batteries store clean energy that can be used anytime.

The Bloomberg news service reported last March that the more than 100-megawatt Angleton project could power about 20,000 homes on a hot summer day. Austin-based Tesla unveiled the 2.5-acre project in a YouTube video posted January 6.

A presentation made to the Angleton City Council by Plus Power LLC indicates the Megapack project is supposed to be part of a larger energy-storage “park.” The park could generate about $1 million in property tax revenue over a 10-year span, the presentation says.

San Francisco-based Plus Power, which has an office in Spring, develops battery-equipped systems for energy storage.

The Megapack project, built by Tesla subsidiary Gambit Energy Storage LLC, is registered with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), according to Bloomberg. The quasi-governmental agency operates about 95 percent of the Texas power grid. ERCOT came under intense criticism after last February’s massive winter storm left millions of Texans without power for several days.

Tesla’s new energy-storage system is adjacent to a Texas-New Mexico Power Co. substation, Bloomberg says.

“Tesla’s energy-storage business on a percentage basis is growing faster than their car business, and it’s only going to accelerate,” Daniel Finn-Foley, head of energy storage at Wood MacKenzie Power and Renewables, told Bloomberg. “They are absolutely respected as a player, and they are competing aggressively on price.”

In November, the Texas Public Utilities Commission approved an application from Tesla subsidiary Tesla Energy Ventures LLC to be a retail provider of electricity in Texas. The power will be sold to residential and business customers throughout the ERCOT grid.

Tesla's Austin factory could generate a $10 billion local investment, according to Musk. Courtesy of Tesla

Elon Musk says Tesla’s new Texas factory will drive $10 billion in total investment

revved-up ROI

With 66.8 million followers on Twitter, Elon Musk’s tweets attract an outsized amount of attention. So, when Musk tweeted December 16 that the new Tesla factory east of Austin would represent a long-term investment of at least $10 billion, generating over 20,000 direct jobs and 100,000 indirect jobs, it raised more than a few eyebrows.

Until that tweet appeared, Tesla — the Austin-based electric vehicle maker headed by Musk — had indicated it would invest $1.1 billion in the plant and would create at least 5,000 jobs and potentially 10,000 jobs there. As such, was Musk’s December 16 tweet promising far more than that a spot-on statement or a far-fetched embellishment? Musk hasn’t elaborated on his tweet, but experts believe his pronouncement isn’t in the wrong lane.

Corporate site consultant John Boyd doesn’t think the tweet is “hyperbole from larger-than-life Musk,” who is the world’s richest person.

“The magnitude of the Austin campus, the sea change transforming the North American auto industry, and Musk’s extensive business enterprises could easily support those kind of … numbers,” Boyd says. “I have found that the outspoken Musk is not prone to exaggeration and has no problem speaking his mind.”

Moreover, Boyd foresees Musk bulking up the Austin factory site — which is now Tesla’s corporate headquarters — with operations from his other ventures, such as SpaceX and Neuralink.

“Tesla is just a piece of the pie for Musk. Look for him to co-locate some of his other enterprises on his massive Austin site,” Boyd says. “It would be hard for him to find a better labor market and a more favorable state business and tax climate than he now enjoys in Austin.”

Tesla’s production capacity at the Austin plant for its Model Y, Cybertruck, and Semi vehicles could warrant Musk’s new claims about the size of the new factory’s investment and workforce, says Matt Patton, executive vice president of Austin-based economic development consulting firm AngelouEconomics.

“The potential for expanding the factory is there,” Patton says.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Tesla's Fremont, California, factory employs around 10,000 people and uses a fleet of robots to create the vehicles. Photo courtesy of Tesla Motors

Tesla taps Texas for new factory with construction already underway

Lone star state bound

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is putting an end to months of speculation of if the Lone Star State is to be considered for Tesla's next U.S. factory. Multiple cities including Tulsa, Oklahoma, were attempting to woo the electric car manufacturer.

But, as Musk announced this week, work is already underway on a new site in Austin. The 2,100-acre site sits near the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Previous reporting by numerous sources revealed that Tesla had a $5 million option to purchase the property, which has around two miles of frontage on the Colorado River. A sand and gravel mining company currently operates on the site, which is off Texas State Highway 130, just south of Harold Green Road. Google already marks the site as Tesla GigaAustin.

"Tesla is one of the most exciting and innovative companies in the world, and we are proud to welcome its team to the State of Texas," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement. "Texas has the best workforce in the nation and we've built an economic environment that allows companies like Tesla to innovate and succeed.

"Tesla's Gigafactory Texas will keep the Texas economy the strongest in the nation and will create thousands of jobs for hard-working Texans," he continues. "I look forward to the tremendous benefits that Tesla's investment will bring to Central Texas and to the entire state."

Travis County, where the plant is located, recently approved to grant a tax break for the company that is projected to amount to $14 million in savings on property taxes over the next 10 years. The Del Valle school district, where the site is located, also approved a tax holiday for the company, granting approximately $50 million in tax rebates over the same timespan.

Tesla has promised to reinvest 10 percent of the tax rebate amount back into the community.

The company is planning to spend $1.1 billions to built a 4 to 5 million square foot factory on the site that will employ around 5,000 acres according to documents filed with Travis Country. Workers would earn an average salary of around $47,000 and have benefits and stock options. Minimum pay will be $15 per hour. The workers would not be unionized.

The factory will be company's second automotive plant in the U.S. The other is located in Fremont, California, and employed around 10,000 people.

Tesla intends to make its new Cybertruck at the facility in addition to Tesla Model Y crossovers, Model 3 sedans that are destined for delivery in the Eastern U.S. The Tesla semi truck is also slated for production at the site.

On an earnings call today, Musk said that the plant will be an "ecological paradise" and it will be open to the public.

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This article originally ran on AutomotiveMap.

Tesla plans to manufacture its new Cybertruck at the facility, along with Tesla Model Y crossovers, the Tesla semi truck, and Model 3 sedans. Photo courtesy of Tesla Motors

On Twitter, Elon Musk voiced his frustrations with California leadership. Meanwhile in Texas, local leaders said come on over. Photo via Tesla.com

Could Tesla come to Texas? Houston-area leaders extend an invite

had it with cali

Tech mogul Elon Musk has had it with local California leadership regarding their COVID-19 restrictions and their effect on operations at Tesla's facilities.

Musk took to Twitter to express himself, and floated the idea of moving to Texas or Nevada. On Saturday, May 9, Musk, who founded Tesla as well as SpaceX, threatened to pull the company's factory and headquarters out of California in an escalating spat with local officials who have stopped the company from reopening its electric vehicle factory.

An order in the six-county San Francisco Bay Area forced Tesla to close a plant starting March 23 to help prevent the virus' spread. Musk took umbrage with the order being extended until the end of May.

"Frankly, this is the final straw," Musk tweeted. "Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately."

Thus, much like Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner invited Amazon to open new digs in the Houston area, Fort Bend County Judge KP George seized on the opportunity and urged Tesla to make its way to Texas, CultureMap news partner ABC13 reports.

George penned a letter to Musk and posted it to Twitter, noting that Fort Bend County is the best location for Musk to bring his offices. The letter highlights several reasons George believes Fort Bend would be the most suitable location for his offices, as well as the number of jobs it would bring to residents in the community. It describes Fort Bend as "a unique place."

"I understand you have become frustrated with the climate in your current location as we all fight this collective invisible enemy," wrote George. "However, I think your company would greatly benefit from learning about Fort Bend County as your search for a suitable location continues."

Not to be outdone, Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña also chimed in on Twitter, welcoming Tesla to the Houston area.

No word on a Musk response to the two local officials.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Houston cleantech company sees shining success with gold hydrogen

bling, bling

Houston-based cleantech startup Cemvita Factory is kicking things into high gear with its Gold Hydrogen product.

After successfully completing a pilot test of Gold Hydrogen in the oil-rich Permian Basin of West Texas, Cemvita has raised an undisclosed amount of funding through its new Gold H2 LLC spin-out. The lead investors are Georgia-based equipment manufacturer Chart Industries and 8090 Industries, an investment consortium with offices in New York City and Los Angeles.

Gold Hydrogen provides carbon-neutral hydrogen obtained from depleted oil and gas wells. This is achieved through bioengineering subsurface microbes in the wells to consume carbon and generate clean hydrogen.

Cemvita says it set up Gold H2 to commercialize the business via licensing, joint ventures, and outright ownership of hydrogen assets.

“We have incredible conviction in next-generation clean hydrogen production methods that leverage the vast and sprawling existing infrastructure and know-how of the oil and gas industry,” Rayyan Islam, co-founder and general partner of 8090 Industries, says in a news release.

Traditional methods of producing hydrogen without greenhouse gas emissions include electrolysis powered by renewable sources like wind, solar or water, according to Cemvita. However, production of green hydrogen through normal avenues eats up a lot of energy and money, the startup says.

By contrast, Cemvita relies on depleted oil and gas wells to cheaply produce carbon-free hydrogen.

“The commercialization and economics of the hydrogen economy will require technologies that produce the hydrogen molecule at a meaningful scale with no carbon emissions. Gold H2 is leading the charge … ,” says Jill Evanko, president and CEO of Chart Industries.

Investors in Cemvita include Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, an investment arm of Houston-based Occidental Petroleum, as well as BHP Group, Mitsubishi, and United Airlines Ventures.

Oxy Low Carbon Ventures and United Airlines Ventures are financing Cemvita’s work on sustainable jet fuel. United Airlines operates a hub at George Bush Intercontinental Airport Houston.

Founded by brother-and-sister team Moji and Tara Karimi in 2017, Cemvita uses synthetic biology to turn carbon dioxide into chemicals and alternative fuels.

Houston named best city in Texas and No. 11 in U.S. in prestigious report

best in tx

At least according to one new report, Houston is not only the Energy Capital of the World but also the livability capital of Texas.

A new study from Best Cities, powered by Resonance Consultancy, puts Houston at No. 11 among the best cities in the U.S. That’s the top showing among the six Texas cities included in the ranking. Houston appeared at No. 17 on last year’s list.

“Educated, diverse and hard-working, Houston is America’s stealthy powerhouse on the rise,” Best Cities proclaims.

Best Cities notes that while Austin grabs much of the best-city attention, “the promise of the Lone Star State drawing Californians and New Yorkers is quietly being fulfilled in Houston.” The website points out that the Houston metro area has gained nearly 300,000 residents in the past year, thanks to both domestic and international migration.

Here are some of the individual rankings that contribute to Houston’s 11th-place finish:

  • No. 4 for restaurants
  • No. 7 for culture
  • No. 8 for foreign-born population

“Houston is a diverse and vibrant metro where individuals can start a family, grow their business, attend world-class institutions and universities, or be immersed in the 145 languages that are spoken by our residents,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says in a news release. “The quality of life we have in Houston is second to none, and the data we receive from placements such as … Best Cities further reaffirm the strength and resiliency that has come to define this great city of ours.”

A few spots behind Houston on the Best Cities list are No. 14 Dallas and No. 15 Austin.

What lifts Dallas to the No. 14 spot? These are some of the factors cited by Best Cities:

  • Location of more than 10,000 corporate headquarters
  • Strong showing (No. 2) in the airport connectivity category
  • Kudos for the soon-to-be-expanded Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center Dallas
  • Home of the country’s sixth largest LGBTQ+ community
  • Presence of the 28-block, 68-acre Dallas Arts District

Austin comes in at No. 15, one notch behind Dallas.

Best Cities praises Austin as “a place that’s incredibly livable. Talk to any entrepreneur leaving Silicon Valley or Seattle and chances are they’ve considered Austin.”

The website points to a number of Austin’s assets, such as:

  • Growing presence of Fortune 500 headquarters
  • Comparatively low unemployment rate
  • Location of the University of Texas’ flagship campus
  • Status as the Live Music Capital of the World
  • Home of the annual SXSW gathering

Two other Texas cities make the Best Cities list: No. 34 San Antonio and No. 94 McAllen.

Best Cities bases its list of the best U.S. cities on Resonance Consultancy’s combination of statistical performance plus qualitative evaluations by locals and visitors. Those figures are grouped into six main categories. This year’s ranking features 100 U.S. cities. To come up with the ranking, Resonance Consultancy assessed all U.S. metro areas with at least 500,000 residents.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

How a Houston med device startup pivoted to impact global health and diagnostics

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 153

In the span of a couple years, a Houston startup went from innovating a way for patients with degenerative eye diseases to see better to creating a portable and affordable breath-based diagnostics tool worthy of a prestigious grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.

Steradian Technologies, founded in 2018, set out to create human super-sight via proprietary optics. In early 2020, the company was getting ready to start testing the device and fundraising. Then, the pandemic hit, knocking the company completely off course.

Co-founder and CEO of the company, Asma Mirza, says on this week's Houston Innovators Podcast that the Steradian co-founders discussed how their optic technology could detect diseases. Something just clicked, and the RUMI device was born.

"We are from Houston, Texas, which is one of the most diverse and accessible cities in the country, and we were having trouble with basic diagnostic accessibility. It was taking too long, it was complicated, and people were getting sick and didn't know if they were positive or negative," Mirza says on the show. "That's when we pivoted the company and decided we were going to pivot the company and use optics to detect diseases in breath."

Fast forward two years and the company has been recognized by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with a grant to sport the development of the tool — which costs about the same price as a latte to make. The impact for global health is huge, Mirza says, allowing for people to test their breath for diseases from their own homes in the same time it takes to take your temperature.

"You blow into a cartrige and we're able to take the air from your breath into a liquid sample," Mirza says, explaining how the device uses photons to produce quick results. "It's wild that we still don't have something like that yet."

She shares more details about the grant and the future applications for the technology — as well as the role Houston and local organizations have had on the company — on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.