Environmentalist Groups Issue Legal Attack Against Gigafactory Berlin (Again)

Environmentalist groups have issued another legal challenge against Tesla’s Gigafactory Berlin, this time in the form of filing for a legal injunction against regulatory approval for the factory. In a statement issued by their lawyer, the associations Gruene Liga and Nabu say that they have asked a court to clarify the situation as quickly as possible. The Brandenburg State Office for the Environment previously rejected their bid to terminate the permits.

Environmentalist groups have previously scored a partial legal victory in the form of a temporary ban on clearing trees on land that Tesla plans to use for expansions for Gigafactory Berlin. The court ruled that Tesla did not have adequate plans to relocate endangered animal species in the area or fund ecological restoration projects.

An extreme environmentalist group claimed responsibility for a suspected case of arson that damaged power lines leading to the Gigafactory. Investigators obtained an open letter posted online that said “Tesla is neither green, ecological nor social.”

Tesla has previously complained about bureaucratic delays with the approval of final completion of Gigafactory Berlin, although some of the delays may be caused by changes to its plans for the Gigafactory such as the recent addition of more details on product lines and plans to assemble batteries at the site. It currently plans to open the Gigafactory as early as late 2021.

Despite the environmentalists’ actions, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has expressed an interest in “greener” operations that include a more efficient battery-making process that uses less water and sourcing its raw materials from countries with strong mining regulations like Australia and Canada. It plans to source $1 billion in lithium and nickel for its batteries from Australian mining firms, for instance.

Tesla is also investing heavily in renewable energy production and storage despite its current struggles with pricing for its solar roofs, which has caused enough annoyance for consumers for them to consider a class-action lawsuit. It continues to roll out Powerpacks and Megapacks for projects like Apple’s solar farm in California. Recent financial filings indicate that solar power and associated batteries account for 6% of its revenue, a 30% growth since 2019.

Most of its revenue comes from the sale of electric vehicles and carbon credits. While some environmentalists have complained of Tesla’s vehicles running on fossil fuels like coal, it has also invested in solar powered EV charging stations like one operated by Fastned in Düsseldorf, Germany, which hosts 20 Superchargers. Fastned plans to build a network of 1,000 EV charging stations across Europe.

Tesla has also filed a trademark for restaurant services at which EV owners might grab a burger while waiting for their vehicles to charge, echoing Musk’s desire to bring back the nostalgia of carhops with waitresses on roller skates.

This string of environmental-related challenges for Gigafactory Berlin may simply be a case of activists never being satisfied even when progress is being made. Clarification of the sort that the environmentalists are asking for in this case, may not be a bad thing. However, they may not do themselves any favors with endless legal complaints and hostile actions like the case of alleged arson.