Tesla to invest $1 million in battery research at UNLV

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Daniel Rothberg / Las Vegas Sun

Gov. Brian Sandoval talks about the partnership between UNLV and Tesla at the campus, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015. Joining Sandoval for the announcement were, from left, Tesla Vice President Diarmuid O’Connell, UNLV President Len Jessup, and Tom Piechota, UNLV’s interim vice president for research and economic development.

Wed, Oct 7, 2015 (5 p.m.)

After nearly a year of construction on its gigafactory near Reno, the electric car and battery company Tesla is extending its influence to the southern half of the state.

Following a ceremony and remarks from Gov. Brian Sandoval Wednesday afternoon, the company signed an agreement to invest $1 million over five years in battery and manufacturing research at UNLV.

The deal makes good on Tesla’s commitment to invest in educational research as part of the state's agreement to give Tesla a $1.3 billion tax incentive if it chose Nevada as the site for its large-scale battery factory that will span at least 5.5 million square feet.

While much of the research is proprietary, the partnership between Tesla and the university is geared toward supplementing Tesla’s activities at its Northern Nevada factory, said Tom Piechota, UNLV’s interim vice president for research and economic development. In addition to research on batteries, UNLV faculty will be charged with helping Tesla study manufacturing, water treatment, recycling and the behavior of certain metal materials, Piechota said after the agreement was announced.

Tesla, Sandoval said during his remarks, has not only delivered on its promises but exceeded them. He said the state’s relationship with Tesla represents a model for how Nevada can provide companies with research, manufacturing and raw materials at once.

“It brings it all together. It brings North and South together,” Sandoval said of the UNLV agreement. “It brings cutting-edge technology together with cutting-edge research at this university.”

UNLV President Len Jessup said private partnerships are critical to UNLV's goal to become a top-tier research university. “The connection for us is special,” he said in his remarks. “We get to be a little part of the catalyst in the next shift Tesla is about to make.”

Tesla Vice President Diarmuid O’Connell noted that the company was originally founded in the shadows of another educational institution, referencing Stanford, and joked that it was not rare for students to get their diplomas then go straight to work for Tesla.

“We hope to inspire that same sort of dynamic here,” O’Connell said.

Tesla is expected to invest $5 billion in its factory, which could start producing batteries by 2017 and reach full capacity by 2020.

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