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Tesla’s long-term play on batteries gets praise from German auto executive

When Elon Musk proposed his idea of building a Gigafactory to manufacture batteries for Tesla’s electric cars, many were skeptical. The company’s skeptics were quick to jump on the opportunity to criticize the daring venture, and even the MIT Technology Review noted in an April 2014 article that the project might “mostly be a clever negotiating tactic,” since Tesla could not guarantee enough demand for its vehicles to justify the construction of the massive facility (Tesla was only selling around 23,000 cars per year then).

Fast forward to the present, and Tesla’s long-term play on Gigafactory 1 is starting to pay off. The Model 3, an incredibly successful electric sedan that sold over 145,000 units in the SUV and pickup truck-dominated North American market in 2018, is being prepared for an international ramp. Tesla also stands as the most notable electric car maker that produces its own battery cells. Behind these advantages and milestones are Gigafactory 1’s battery production capabilities, which achieved an annualized run rate of 20 GWh last year.

For BMW Deputy Chairman of the Supervisory Board Manfred Schoch, Tesla’s long-term play on electric car batteries was a strategic decision. In a recent interview with German publication Manager Magazin, the BMW executive remarked that Tesla’s high investments for Gigafactory 1 are well-spent. Schoch also praised Elon Musk’s decision to closely collaborate with Panasonic early on to produce batteries at a large scale.

“Tesla controls the entire value chain; they understood electromobility,” the BMW executive said.

Schoch, who also serves as the Chairman of the Munich Works Council and the European Works Council, has decades of experience in the auto industry. Joining BMW in 1980 as a trainee, he later became the automaker’s works council chairman in 1987, where he gained a reputation as a working time expert. During his tenure with BMW, he introduced a wide variety of working time models, even introducing initiatives to make working hours more flexible for the company’s workforce. As such, Schoch is quite familiar with large-scale projects that enhance efficiency in the long-term.

In his recent interview, Schoch ultimately called on BMW’s executives to explore the idea of producing the company’s own battery cells for its upcoming electric cars. Candidly addressing his concerns, Schoch stated that BMW’s board members would probably benefit from working with Elon Musk, especially since the auto industry has developed a tendency to declare some otherwise important ideas as impossible.

“Our board members should finally deal more intensively with this gentleman, who should have been bankrupt by now. In the (auto) industry, too much is complained, and too much is declared impossible,” the BMW executive said.

Schoch’s statements on Tesla comes amidst Germany’s best year for electric vehicle sales yet. During 2018, figures from the German Federal Motor Transport Authority indicated an increase of 43.9% in EV sales. That’s more than 1% of the country’s total new passenger car sales. This increase comes amidst a steep dive in the sale of diesel-powered vehicles in Germany, which saw a decline from 38.8% to 32.3%.

Tesla, for its part, is preparing Europe for the arrival of the Model 3. Local reports suggest that Tesla is looking to ship 3,000 Model 3 to the European region starting February. Members of the Tesla community have shared images featuring trucks loaded with the electric sedan heading towards San Francisco’s Pier 80 as well.

Tesla has also begun rolling out dual-charge CCS Superchargers for the European region. When the company announced that the Model 3 would be getting a CCS port, Tesla noted that it would be “retrofitting our existing Superchargers with dual charge cables to enable Model 3, which will come with a CCS Combo 2 charge port, to use the Tesla Supercharger network.” The installation of the new “Model 3 Priority” CCS Superchargers, as well as the retrofitting of the existing network, is expected to continue in the months ahead.

Tesla’s long-term play on batteries gets praise from German auto executive
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