Tesla gigafactory projections

Tesla Motors may make good on chief Elon Musk's claim of selling a half-million vehicles a year by the end of the decade, Motley Fool says. Of course, the author of the Foolish report in question owns Tesla shares but, now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's check out the logic.

Tesla moved almost 22,500 Model S vehicles last year and it was the best-selling plug-in vehicle in the US during the fourth quarter. The company expects to sell about 35,000 this year but the rate of global sales could be double that by the end of the year. From then on out, it's all about economies of scale, with demand mushrooming overseas, costs dropping as a result of the company's slated "gigafactory" and the introduction of the $35,000-ish Model E by 2017. Add it all up, and you can get to 500,000 EVs a year, the Fool says.

Late last month, Tesla disclosed details about its gigafactory, saying it will be fed by sun- and wind power, will employ about 6,500 people and will produce those half-million battery packs a year. Between the company and its partners, as much as $5 billion will be invested in the plant, which is slated to be somewhere in the southwestern US (but not in its native California).

To put those projected half-million vehicles in perspective, let's look at the unquestioned champion of the green car movement for the past decade, the Toyota Prius and its many Toyota and Lexus gas-electric siblings. It's taken many years to get to this point, but Toyota can now sell about a million hybrids around the world in nine months.