Currently reading: Tesla's race to compete in Europe hits potential roadblocks
Local concerns may hamper progress on the EV firm's German factory, although officially it remains on track

Tesla’s planned German battery factory will eventually be "the largest in the world", CEO Elon Musk told the recent European Battery Conference in Germany, but local media reports say its construction is running into significant opposition from locals and environmental campaigners.

The hold-ups come at the same time as Tesla’s market share in a booming European EV market is faltering. According to a 12-month rolling sales report by EV analyst Matthias Schmidt, Tesla Europe sales flattened off in 2020, before being overtaken from the autumn by the Volkswagen brand in the wake of the launch of the ID 3 EV.

Dubbed the ‘Gigafactory’, the new Tesla battery plant - located 20 miles outside Berlin - will be built alongside a new production line that will be turning out the Model Y, and likely further models to come, from next year. Musk says the production plant should initially reach an annual output of 500,000 units once fully ramped up.

Although work on the production line buildings at Grünheid has progressed at great speed, Tesla is facing problems getting permission to push on with the battery production plant itself.

According to local press reports, after around 300 hectares of pine trees were cleared for the site, local opposition is now centred on the likely water consumption of both the battery production facility and the paint plant.

According to German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, the Gigafactory foundations and the shell of the plant are in place but further advances on construction were being held up by delays to construction permits, with much of the current building work completed via ‘advance permits’.

It’s suggested this is a likely consequence of an eight-day hearing, held in late September by the local licensing authority, to consider over 400 objections from a wide range of parties.

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Local media reports say that the objections are both about the type of paint plant Tesla has planned for the site and how clearing the forest and replacing it with paved surfaces could reduce the amount of rainfall that seeps into the area’s natural reservoirs, affecting water supply to the local population.

The reports also say that the local water company could ask Tesla to build its own artificial reservoir to serve the facility.

At the beginning of November, Musk flew into Berlin to visit the Grünheid site and held a meeting with Brandenburg's minister of economics, Jörg Steinbach.  According to Der Tagesspiegel, Steinbach said the hour-long meeting was about the hold-ups at the Gigafactory.

"Of course, we also talked about the schedule and the approval process… Elon Musk asked for an explanation of what is possible and what is not possible because it would jeopardise the legal security of the project,” the paper reported.

Plans to start installing production equipment onto the production lines have been held up, as has the overall ‘environmental approval process’ for the battery factory, calling Musk’s ambitious timetable for building cars in Europe by summer 2021 into question. However, Tesla continues to officially state that it remains on track for factoru completion in July.

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In the meantime, Tesla has begun exporting Chinese-made Model 3s to Europe. These cars are fitted with LFP batteries (lithium iron phosphate), which are said to be significantly cheaper than the NMC nickel-manganese-cobalt batteries used in US Teslas and contributed to Chinese retail prices of the car falling by around 10%. 

However, multiple sources cite homologation details for the Chinese-made Model 3 that revealed the cheaper batteries are also a significant 200kg heavier than the NMC units. The upshot is the vehicle’s overall carrying capacity has been reduced to around 300kg, according to claims on the financial investment site Seeking Alpha.


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MikeeG 30 November 2020
More Autocar anti EV tripe. It can't be done say the oil companies and manufacturers with no EVs. We'll actually it can and no it won't be extended. Shell and BP know they have to back EV charging where are the rest going. Esso and the others? Maybe supermarkets will shape it again?
jagdavey 26 November 2020

Should have gone to Swindon!!!!! With all the agro & red tape of building cars in highly regulated Germany, why didn't "Musky" simply take over the "oven ready" option of the vacant Honda Swindon factory?? How much did Tesla get from the German government to invest in high cost Germany? Living & working in Germany is not a paradise. Work places are heavily unionised to such an extent than a union member sits on the board of directors.

HiPo 289 26 November 2020

This article is backwards The headline should be: "How will European automakers compete with Tesla, which is 10 years ahead?" The ongoing VW ID3 software problems are a case in point.  The latest EVs are predominantly about software, something that traditional car manufacturers, and fossilised automotive journalists, clearly know little about. The reason that Tesla is so valuable on the stockmarket, is because investors are pricing in their prediction that Tesla will in future dominate in many automotive markets.  The minor and normal business challenges mentioned in this article are just bumps in the road. It would pay Autocar well to focus on new companies like Rivian, Arrival, Lucid and others, instead of looking backwards into the 20th Century.  Better still, read some of the latest reports that look into the future of the transport sector.  If you think Tesla has upset the cosy world of European car making, there could be much bigger changes coming.  BP and Shell aren't lobbying for a 2030 end to internal combustion without good reason.  

HiPo 289 26 November 2020

The Shell comment is on LinkedIn: "The information was disclosed on the LinkedIn network by the director of operations for the oil company Royal Dutch Shell, Sinead Lynch, who believes that the United Kingdom may stop the sale of combustion vehicles within 10 years, in order to eliminate all emissions pollutants until about 2050, saying that this can be achieved if the country promotes a “policy of adequate incentives”. "So who is Autocar kidding, if even Shell thinks internal combustion is dead?