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Tesla's Gigafactory Is Going to Be Expensive

Stocks in this article: TSLAPCAAPL

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- As part of yesterday's massive Tesla Motors (TSLA) price target hike, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas touched on the upcoming Gigafactory, which Tesla has earmarked to house its production of lithium-ion battery. While no one outside of tight-lipped Tesla number crunchers have much of an idea about what it will cost, it's likely to be incredibly expensive. 

Jonas noted that the gigafactory, which is an integral big part of Tesla's future, could cost well over $1 billion, and is likely the reason why Tesla is going to partner with Panasonic and potentially, Apple (AAPL).

"The company's plans to construct a highly vertically integrated battery pack facility of this scale in N. America, that can serve multiple end uses is without precedent," Jonas wrote in the note.

Shares of Panasonic jumped in Japanese trading overnight, as the electronics manufacturer said it's "studying every possible way to strengthen ties with Tesla", as rumors continue to persist Panasonic will partner with Tesla on the factory.

On last week's earnings call, Tesla CEO Elon Musk seemed to confirm those rumors, but noted we would hear more abut that this week.

"Well, we actually expect that there'd be more than 1 partner in the factory," Musk said on the call. "I mean, obviously, Panasonic is currently our primary partner on cell production, and so the default assumption will be that Panasonic would continue to partner with us in the Gigafactory. But there are also likely to be other suppliers in the factory that provide the pre-cost [ph] materials to the cell, so the anode and cathode materials, separator, electrolyte, that kind of thing."

In a separate interview with Bloomberg, Musk confirmed that Tesla official met with Apple executives last spring, but wouldn't comment on whether it was about the gigafactory or something else.

The gigafactory is an important part of Tesla' future, and could push the company into an alternative direction, away from just building cars, Jonas notes.

We found the final sentence of Tesla's prepared remarks [third-quarter] on its plans to build the world's largest lithium ion battery factory intriguing: "It is a massive, massive opportunity to push the cost curve down to levels people haven't even dreamed of yet. We find investors are starting to seriously ask if Tesla can be much more than just a car manufacturer," Jonas wrote in a note earlier this year to clients.

"If this company can establish a technological and scale lead in every storage and infrastructure, might we one day look back at Tesla's humble beginnings as a car maker much as Amazon began as a book seller?"

We're likely to hear something about the gigafactory this week, perhaps even today. You can bet though, that whenever we hear about it, and whatever it entails, it's going to be incredibly expensive.


--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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