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AUSTIN, Texas — Bulldozers and other construction equipment have been at work for weeks at the location of Tesla’s future $1.1 billion electric vehicle factory in southeast Travis County, but a site plan filed by the company is providing the first public indication of the facility’s huge eventual footprint.
The document — which outlines Tesla’s intentions for 280 acres of the 2,100-acre tract that it purchased for $97 million in July — might be as notable for what it leaves out, however.
The plan filed with the city of Austin includes a massive oblong factory building just east of Texas Highway 130 that spans from near the Colorado River north to near Harold Green Road. Counting parking lots, the facility’s footprint amounts to 7.9 million square feet — or the equivalent of about 138 football fields.
But it’s still unclear what Tesla will do with its remaining 1,800 or so acres at the site. A spokesman for the company didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives said he anticipates a significant amount of additional development at the site by Tesla, although he noted that the company has a reputation for keeping its plans close to the vest.
“I see, ultimately, them making this much more than a typical factory,” Ives said. “It’s not just about the factory.”
He said he considers it likely that Tesla, which is based in California, will “take advantage of Austin’s engineering talent” by building separate research and development and design facilities at the site. He and other analysts also have said they expect the company to locate some of its battery operations in the Austin area, in addition to the vehicle manufacturing plant.
Tesla will need a test-driving area as well, Ives said.
“There is a lot of wood to chop ahead” in terms of development of the location beyond the initial 280 acres, he said.
Meanwhile, the site plan that was filed with the city doesn’t appear to show any of the public amenities that Tesla CEO Elon Musk raved about in July when he announced plans to build the factory here, so those might be revealed in later phases.
“We are going to make it a factory that is going to be stunning,” Musk said at the time. “It is right on the Colorado River. So we are actually going to have a boardwalk where there will be a hike and biking trail. It is basically going to be an ecological paradise — birds in the trees, butterflies, fish in the stream. And it will be open to the public as well, so not closed and only open to Tesla.”
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Tesla has said the vehicle factory will serve consumer demand in the eastern and central portions of the country for the company’s Model 3 compact sedan, which has become its top seller, and for its recently introduced Model Y compact sport utility vehicle.
The plant also will be the launching point for two new Tesla products — the company’s planned Cybertruck pickup and its commercial semi-truck for longhaul shipping.
The Cybertruck in particular will be closely watched as Tesla tries to break into a U.S. market for pickups dominated by Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler, the so-called Big Three automakers. Tesla’s pickup — which has an unconventional, sci-fi appearance and a base starting price of $39,900 — was unveiled about a year ago, but it won’t go into production until the Austin factory is operational.
Musk said last month that the company already has received several hundred thousand advance orders for the pickup, and there’s “more excitement about the Cybertruck than any product we have ever unveiled.”
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He has said he is aiming for the factory, which is just outside Austin’s city limits, to be operational sometime next year, although Tesla hasn’t provided a specific target.
Travis County and the Del Valle school district helped lure the factory by approving tax breaks sought by Tesla that are valued at a minimum of about $60 million combined. The company didn’t receive financial incentives from the state to build the factory, which is expected to employ 5,000 people.
As things stand, about 70% of Tesla’s vehicles are produced at its manufacturing facilities in Fremont, Calif., and about 30% are produced at a factory in China that it opened late last year. In addition to the planned Austin factory, a Tesla assembly plant in Germany is under construction.
The company also has a factory near Reno, Nev., that produces batteries and a factory in Buffalo, N.Y., that produces solar panels for installation on building rooftops.
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