In a recent statement to German media, Brandenburg Economics Minister Jörg Steinbach stated that he expects the final approval for Tesla’s Gigafactory Berlin facility to be released sometime in the fourth quarter of 2021. If this comes to pass, Model Y production in the facility would be starting several months or so later than expected, which may not seem like too much of a delay. It may, however, result in Gigafactory Texas, a facility that started its buildout several months after the Germany-based factory, starting its Model Y production earlier than its Germany-based sibling.
As per a report from Berlin.de, Steinbach stated that the principle of quality over speed applies in the approval process of Gigafactory Berlin. “The principle of quality over speed clearly applies in the approval process. The top priority is that the decision of the State Office for the Environment is ultimately legally secure. And the factory can only be opened once a positive approval decision has been made,” the minister said.
If the State Environment Agency refuses to grant Gigafactory Berlin’s final approval, Tesla would have to dismantle all the structures it has built on the massive Grünheide complex, which includes a plant designed to produce the Tesla Model Y. Tesla would also have to replace the monoculture forest that it cut down in the area. Steinbach, however, noted that he considers a final veto from the Environmental Agency to be practically impossible. “This is not about the approval of a new nuclear power plant,” he said.
Inasmuch as Giga Berlin is supported by the Economics Minister, there is no denying that the project is meeting a substantial amount of pushback from local entities. Legal challenges from the Naturschutzbund (Nabu) and the Green League over Giga Berlin’s latest early approval aside, Tesla is also being investigated by the Brandenburg’s State Environment Agency for allegedly constructing a refrigerant tank (which may still be empty) without permission. The complaints about Giga Berlin’s alleged “illegal” tanks were filed by the two environmental groups, and are cruelty being handled by the Berlin-Brandenburg Higher Administrative Court (OVG).
Similar issues have so far not plagued Gigafactory Texas. Since its announcement on the Q2 2020 earnings call, Giga Texas’ construction has been relatively smooth. It’s been roughly 350 days since the massive Texas-based facility was announced, and so far, trial runs for parts of the plant’s Model Y production line are already underway. Elon Musk even noted on Twitter back in April that limited production of the Model Y would begin in Gigafactory Texas this year, with volume production hitting its pace in 2022.
What is quite interesting is that Gigafactory Texas’s footprint exceeds that of Gigafactory Berlin. Tesla adopted a different pattern for Giga Texas by building large sections of the full factory immediately, and so far, such a strategy seems to be working well. However, what truly differentiates the Texas plant from its Germany-based counterpart is the amount of pushback against the project as a whole. While Giga Berlin could barely move these days without encountering loud complaints and legal actions from the Naturschutzbund (Nabu) and the Green League — or local news agencies for that matter — Giga Texas has so far been met with support.
This is quite an unfortunate situation overall, as Gigafactory Berlin actually started out strong. Following its initial announcement in November 2019, Giga Berlin’s first months showed a lot of progress, so much so that it seemed like the facility may be built faster than Gigafactory Shanghai, whose Model 3 factory was built and launched in less than a year. But just like Giga Texas, Gigafactory Shanghai was also constructed without much drama. Since its groundbreaking in January 2019, Tesla’s China-based facility has grown steadily, and today, it is already poised to export the Made-in-China Model Y to European territories.
Tesla opened orders for the Model Y in Europe recently, and the all-electric crossovers would likely be coming from Giga Shanghai. One could almost assume that Tesla opted for this strategy due to the delays in Giga Berlin. The Grünheide facility, after all, was initially expected to start Model Y production sometime in the latter half of 2021. But if Brandenburg’s Economics Minister optimistically believes that Giga Berlin’s final approval would be granted in the fourth quarter, then having Giga Shanghai’s Made-in-China Model Ys pick up the slack may indeed be a good idea.
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