Tesla's German Factory Could Be Delayed So Animals Can Hook Up

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Tesla’s planned factory in Germany could face major delays if the manufacturer doesn’t start construction within the next two months. Brandenburg’s Economy Minister, Joerg Steinbach, recently told German outlet Handelsblatt that the 300-hectare area in Grünheide Tesla set aside is subject to environmental regulations that prohibit interfering with the local wildlife’s breeding habits.

These twitterpated critters are not to be interfered with if the company hasn’t started building by mid-March.

Until then, it’s fair game. Once crews finish clearing the land (and leftover ordnance from World War II), they can finish scaring away the animals. However, if Tesla can’t get all of that done in a couple of months and start construction on the factory, it will be forced to delay the entire project another nine months.

“That would be a situation in which I would be much more skeptical about whether we could get Tesla to stick with it,” Steinbach said, adding that Tesla should have a convincing proposal to meet local environmental demands and gain public approval for construction.

Frankly, the site sounds like it’s already become a hassle. Tesla faced immediate criticism for choosing a site near a German nature reserve and has repeatedly fielded questions about water usage, deforestation and pollution. Activists estimate the facility’s water consumption will be somewhere around 372 cubic meters (98,272 gallons) per hour. The manufacturer’s own plans for the factory state it would need to pull about 300 cubic meters of water per hour to support operations, encouraging the Brandenburg water association to express its own concerns.

“Sounds like we need to clear up a few things! Tesla won’t use this much net water on a daily basis,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted earlier this month. “It’s possibly a rare peak usage case, but not an everyday event. Also, this is not a natural forest — it was planted for use as cardboard [and] only a small part will be used for [Gigafactory 4].”

Tesla has promised to relocate several animal species and plant three times as many trees that it cuts down in a different locale. It also had to seek help from local authorities to defuse at least seven unexploded bombs dropped by the U.S. Air Force during World War II.

Grünheide’s mayor, Arne Christiani, said most of the WWII ordnance has already been cleared and believed the U.S. automaker will be able to file the relevant paperwork with time to spare. He also praised the project for providing new employment opportunities for the region. “The area has waited 20 years for something to happen there,” Christiani told Handelsblatt.

Supporters of the project are no more difficult to find than naysayers; some suggest Tesla hasn’t been as active in Grünheide as they’d like. A few even claimed the company lacks commitment and hasn’t proven it’s taking the construction seriously by risking delays. “There are rules that everyone has to follow,” Christiani explained to Bloomberg in a recent phone interview. “But we’re still optimistic and are very much within our desired time plan … There would have been opposition even if we had built a chocolate factory on the site.”

Steinbach has tried to assure citizens that Tesla wouldn’t do anything without government approval, noting that the company must ensure the plant poses “no environmental hazard.” Assuming that happens, the factory could produce as many as 500,000 cars annually and employ 12,000 people (according to Tesla’s own estimates). In the short term, that’s means 150,000 Model 3 and Y vehicles per year — starting in summer of 2021.

[Image: JL IMAGES/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Jerome10 Jerome10 on Jan 31, 2020

    I’m a little surprised Tesla is opening a German plant. Why not Czech or Poland, Hungary. Has to be much lower cost. But then this company runs a factory in the Bay Area so saving money doesn’t seem to be important.

    • See 1 previous
    • Conundrum Conundrum on Feb 03, 2020

      @Garak What, like Audis from Gyor, Hungary aren't prestigious? "In Győr, the Audi TT Coupé, TT Roadster, A3 Sedan, A3 Cabriolet and, since 2018, the Audi Q3 roll off the production line." If Musk is truly green then letting wildlife have at it on the edge of a nature preserve before he erects another monument to himself shouldn't bother him. But as he has dismissed the forest as a cardboard (pulp) plantation, perhaps not. His China plant is built on reclaimed land in the harbour, not in the countryside.

  • Johnnyz Johnnyz on Feb 02, 2020

    1 real acre equals 2.46 hectares. Danka

  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
  • CAMeyer Considering how many voters will be voting for Trump because they remember that gas prices were low in 2020–never mind the pandemic—this seems like a wise move.
  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.
  • ToolGuy Also on to-do list: Read the latest Steve S. fiction work on TTAC (May 20 Junkyard Find)