German police are investigating a fire at Gigafactory Berlin as a possible arson case with political motives after far-left activists claimed responsibility for it. The fire damaged several power cables leading to the Tesla facility and an area of about three square meters surrounding it.
Investigators are currently examining a letter that was circulated on social media and posted on a radical left website in which the activists claimed that “Tesla is neither green, ecological nor social.” The environmentalists who claim responsibility for the fire seem to ignore the fact that Elon Musk has made comments saying that he plans to make gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles obsolete and Tesla is also making efforts to expand renewable energy production, ranging from providing 85 Megapack batteries to Apple’s solar farm being constructed in Germany to helping to install 20 Superchargers at a Fastned charging station in Düsseldorf, Germany.
German environmentalist groups had previously won a partial victory against Tesla in a case in which they accused the company of not doing enough to protect endangered wildlife species during its construction of Gigafactory Berlin. The United States and Germany are also currently investigating allegations that Tesla violated emissions standards related to its manufacturing of electric vehicles.
Tesla is currently fighting a court battle in the United States to have Obama-era environmental regulations reinstated after they had been delayed by the Trump Administration. It says that the delay hurt the carbon credit market. Tesla can earn billions of dollars every year by selling carbon credits because, overall, it makes an upfront investment to exceed regulatory standards and can sell the “excess” carbon savings to corporations that don’t.
The carbon credit market has often been criticized by environmental activists as a way for many companies to dodge having to invest in more environmentally friendly technologies and meet regulatory standards. Volkswagen recently signed a deal with Tesla China to buy carbon credits to give itself more time to develop its own electric vehicle manufacturing capacity, for instance. Because of the billions of dollars that companies like Tesla can earn in carbon credit sales every year, some environmental activists have called Tesla a carbon credit selling company that makes electric vehicles on the side, despite the fact that it also delivered nearly 500,000 vehicles in 2020 and a quarterly record 184,800 vehicles in Q1 2021.
New Gigafactories like the ones being built in the Berlin and Austin areas will add to its already solid ability to deliver electric vehicles. Elon Musk is serious enough about hiring qualified people for his companies to have made $30 million in donations for community improvement projects and education in the vicinity of his SpaceX facility in Boca Chica, Texas, in a bid to attract engineers. He has also called for more housing in the Austin area after saying that it is likely to be the next boom town. The Gigafactory in Austin is expected to employ 10,000 people and SpaceX is building a manufacturing facility for Starlink satellites in the area. So it may be that Elon Musk intends for Tesla to be a car company that can sell carbon credits on the side, rather than a carbon credit selling company that incidentally also sells electric vehicles.
The suspicious fire, though annoying for Tesla and serious enough to warrant an investigation by law enforcement, is unlikely to have caused enough damage to slow down the final “grand opening” of Gigafactory Berlin any more than it is already. Tesla had previously expressed frustration with the bureaucratic red tape slowing down the final approval of Gigafactory Berlin. It had to delay the opening of the Gigafactory, which had originally been planned for June, due to the bureaucratic holdup in approval.
This could partly be due to changes to its plans for the Gigafactory, including the addition of plans for a battery cell plant, along with the issues that environmentalists have with the factory. Once the factory is opened, it could produce as many as 500,000 Model Y vehicles per year and provide thousands of jobs for the area.