California may have been the site of innovation during Tesla's early years, but in 2021, both CEO Elon Musk and the company dug their Austin roots deeper.
With Giga Texas on the brink of production, here are some of the year's highlights for Tesla.
At the start of 2021, Tesla's newest gigafactory in southeast Travis County barely had the exterior structure of its 7.9-million-square-foot factory up after starting construction in late 2020. Now, almost a year later, the first phase is just about complete with office space and a Model Y quality control room.
Throughout the year, key updates were made. In April, Tesla filed plans for an additional building at the factory to be part of the “Bobcat Project.” And in July, Musk made a Q2 update from the factory, boasting more than $1 billion in quarterly net income and production of more than 200,000 vehicles.
Then in early October, Musk confirmed Tesla would move its headquarters from the Fremont, California factory to Austin. The move became official at the start of this month, with one analyst suggesting up to 50% of the 10,000 employees there may make the move to Austin.
But besides transplants, the factory has driven record job growth by joining a host of other companies that have promised to relocate or expand in Austin.
Additionally, Tesla added a new 30,000 square-foot showroom in South Austin that opened this fall.
Perhaps one of the most eyed product developments is the production of the Model Y at Giga Texas, with Musk seeming hopeful about demand. Musk has said the Model Y—Tesla's midsize SUV, which starts at $46,690—will be "the best selling car or truck in the world" by next year. Giga Texas is expected to start volume production in 2022.
Another anticipated product, the Cybertruck, has faced its fair share of delays. The futuristic truck, which Tesla recently removed pricing and specs for on its website, is expected to be mass-produced in 2023.
Additionally, the affordable Model 3 and Tesla Semi will be produced at the Austin factory in time.
And outside Giga Texas production, the first Tesla Solar neighborhood—dubbed the nation's most sustainable residential community—will be built in Easton Park, a master-planned community in far Southeast Austin near McKinney Falls State Park. The newly built homes will feature Tesla solar roof tiles and Powerwall battery storage as well as electric vehicle charging stations.
It also expanded its merch in Texas-style with a Giga Texas belt buckle that sold out in less than 24 hours. This year also brought news of a Tesla eatery, Tesla beer, a mega battery for the Texas grid and even the company’s interest in selling electricity.
Tesla hired thousands to build its local factory and has made big promises to recruit local residents, saying at least half of the Gigafactory hires will be Travis County residents.
Musk has since updated his plans for the factory, saying it will result in 20,000 direct jobs and 100,000 indirect jobs rather than the initial 10,000 workers that were slated for the site.
However this works out, the company is making some local investments to ensure a trained workforce. Earlier this year, Tesla kicked off a manufacturing program for Austin Community College students, aimed at helping them earn certifications with both in-class lessons and lab experience. High school students can also get their start in the EV industry, with a partnership between Tesla and Del Valle school district creating a path for gigafactory jobs.
While EV competitor Rivian made an impressive market debut with the biggest American Initial Public Offering since Facebook, Tesla’s stock also showed promise this year. In October, Tesla hit the $1 trillion market cap for the first time, after which its stock shot up to more than $1,045 a share. Shares climbed 50% this year, and in the new year, it's expected to see a 28% gain.
Time crowned Musk person of the year, noting the societal shift wrought by billionaires and their companies, with Musk as the richest (his current net worth is $266 billion). At the start of January, Musk became the richest person in the world, surpassing Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. But the two have been neck and neck for the title, and Musk reclaimed it again in September after an Amazon stock decline.
Come summer, he cracked some jokes and became the first non-entertainer or athlete to host SNL in five years. Shortly after, in the summer Musk celebrated his birthday week with flights on his private jet from Austin to Boca Chica and to San Jose.
He’s been discreet about his housing, even while public speculation has run high. Still, he’s offered crumbs of information. In the summer, he talked about his tiny home in Boca Chica, Texas, near Starbase. But last week, the Wall Street Journal published a story on his reportedly temporary dwellings in Austin. The newspaper wrote that he lived in the home of billionaire friend and former PayPal colleague Ken Howery, which Musk denied.
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- San Marcos favorite Industry Burger opens "mid-October" on E. 5th, featuring "low key healthy" Texas fare.
- Still Austin Whiskey Co. introduces "The Artist," its new rye whiskey.
- Domain NORTHSIDE favorites Bakery Lorraine, Grimaldi's Pizzeria, Jeni's Ice Cream and Sprinkles released their fall flavors.
- Cinnaholic at The Arboretum opens Friday, October 14, serving "create your own" cinnamon rolls and other sweet treats.
- San Francisco's Marufuku Ramen opens next Wednesday, October 12, in the Mueller District.
- Carpenter Hotel announces its popup food truck, Lil Carpenter, open Fri-Sun both ACL weekends, serving what you want, early to late, coffee to donuts, to dogs/burgers/fries/beer.
With major entertainment events slated for October, the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is gearing up for a busy month.
Artists and music lovers are set to pack into Zilker Park for The Austin City Limits Music Festival in the coming two weekends. Following that, Formula One will bring racing fans to the Circuit of the Americas.
For those two events, the airport is anticipating high passenger days with 30,000 or more people departing flights.
ABIA recommends arriving at least two and a half hours in advance for domestic flights on those days. For ACL, it's expected on both Sundays of the festival along with the Monday and Tuesday after. The F1-driven high passenger days are expected on Oct. 20-21 and Oct. 23-26.
\u201c#AustinCityLimits visitors, you\u2019re in for a weird and wild ride \ud83e\udd18\u262e\ufe0f \n\nFlying in or out of our airport? We got firm and fun tips for you: https://t.co/RawVRalOXN\u201d— Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) (@Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)) 1664894083
F1, especially, could draw in loads of travelers as the three-day event saw 400,000 attendees last year. ABIA warns that highways leading to the airport may see even higher traffic than usual around the event and that travelers should plan their route accordingly.
Bailey Grimmett, a spokesperson for ABIA, said travel numbers come in 24 hours in advance. So, it's hard to predict if the airport will see travel volumes at the same levels that have happened around previous F1 races or if it'll top ACL's flight traffic.
Still, she says historical knowledge points to a chance for it.
“We've had that Monday after F1 break the record for single busiest in airport history," Grimmett said. "So context clues I would say yes, but I can't confirm that. But the historical background points to that."
In anticipation of the high volume of flyers, the airport received additional TSA officers for security screening through the end of October. To prepare even further, the Department of Aviation and partners hosted a job showcase and hiring fair to address the continued labor shortage the airport has experienced.
Relief from hectic travel days is on the horizon with November likely to see a slowdown.
"I don't anticipate it will be as busy as October just because we don't have as many events going on," Grimmett said. "Thanksgiving is kind of our primary holiday that we see a lot of passengers coming in and out of the airport."