Tesla factory in Germany gets conditional approval for production
A Tesla Model Y is seen in a production hall at the Tesla Gigafactory during the open house. In Grünheide, east of Berlin, the first vehicles should roll off the production line from the end of 2021.
Patrick Pleul | wedding ring | Getty Images
Tesla has been granted permission to begin commercial production at its new factory near Berlin, local German officials said on Friday.
The conditional license for the Brandenburg vehicle and battery factories was expected after months of delay. Tesla had intended to begin vehicle production in early summer 2021, but the Covid pandemic, supply chain complications and clashes with environmentalists have all slowed their pace.
The project, which was approved with a 536-page decision, includes the plant for the production of up to 500,000 vehicles per year, according to a translated statement.
Approval does not mean Tesla can begin production immediately. The license is subject to a public objection period as well as other final inspection conditions that include air pollution control and water use, according to the release.
The license came from the environmental office of the Land of Brandenburg. Another translated statement regarding the approval called the plant “a great success for Brandenburg”.
The German factory is hugely important to Tesla’s global expansion plans after opening its Gigafactory 3 factory in Shanghai in late 2019. It is also expected to officially open a factory in Texas soon.
In November 2019, when Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced plans to build an auto plant in Germany, he praised German engineering. He said: “Everyone knows that German engineering is exceptional, that’s for sure. That’s part of the reason why we are setting up our Gigafactory Europe in Germany. We will also be creating an engineering design in Berlin, because Berlin has some of the best art in the world.”
Although factory approval took longer than Tesla expected, local officials called the process “unusual in several respects.” This included the “relatively short time” during which the State Environmental Office “inspected and approved not just one factory, but an entire industrial area with multiple large-scale factories and repeated public participation,” the statement said. officials.
In 2020, Tesla capitulated to activist demands and agreed to cut water use at its new factory by more than a third. The company also had to temporarily suspend its construction schedule that year, in particular the clearing of a pine forest, so that it could prove that the action would not harm hibernating snakes and lizards in the area.
Tesla still faces hurdles around its water service contract in Brandenburg.
On Friday, local environmentalists are set to argue in an administrative court hearing that Brandenburg’s environment ministry failed to carry out adequate reviews before granting a license to the local water utility to fulfill a contract with Tesla.
Reuters reported that the groups filing the complaint claimed the plant would use enough water to supply the needs of a town of 30,000 people.
If the environmental groups win, Tesla will have to wait for the water department to negotiate with local officials about where they can source the volume of water needed to run Tesla’s new plant.
In recent years, Tesla has sold in the region and competes with European automakers like Volkswagen and Audi by exporting vehicles from its Shanghai factory.
According to Canalys research, 6.5 million electric vehicles (including 4.5 million battery electric vehicles) were sold worldwide in 2021. In Europe last year, 2.3 million electric vehicles were sold, or 19% of all new cars. Just over half of these, or 54% of all new electric vehicle sales in Europe, were battery electric vehicles like those made by Tesla.