Tesla has set the new goal of opening Gigafactory Berlin as early as October. It had hoped to begin manufacturing at the factory just outside Berlin over the summer, but construction was delayed by a series of regulatory issues, lawsuits from environmentalists, and poor management that led to the company replacing the factory’s manager.
Permits from regulators were one of the big holdups for the Gigafactory. As recently as April, Tesla complained about regulatory red tape holding up construction. It seemed to be constantly being bogged down by the paperwork, though that may not have been entirely the regulators’ fault, considering that Tesla filed changes that included additional details about planned manufacturing-related activities in June.
German environmentalist groups have also caused hassles for Tesla. Environmentalists have filed a lawsuit claiming that Tesla wasn’t doing enough to mitigate the environmental impact of construction and become suspects in an arson case that damaged power lines leading to the Gigafactory. Most recently, a court rejected a bid by environmentalists to suspend provisional permits issued by the Bradenburg state government. An attorney for the group said that they were only seeking clarification for the permits.
Tesla recently invited a candidate for the German prime minister, Armin Laschet, to meet with CEO Elon Musk and tour Gigafactory Berlin. Laschet is the chairman of the Christian Democratic Union and has recently suggested changes in German law to make it more difficult for people to file legal challenges against companies like Tesla if they are not directly impacted by the companies’ operations. Laschet and Musk may hope that this will cut down on the delays in completing the Gigafactory, which will provide thousands of jobs in the state of Bradenburg once it is open for manufacturing. The national election for prime minister is scheduled to occur on September 26.
Once Gigafactory Berlin is complete, it will reduce Tesla’s reliance on importing cars from China for sale in the European government. The majority of vehicles manufactured at Gigafactory Shanghai are exported to Europe amid reports of weak sales in China due to poor publicity caused by extensive vehicle recalls to fix issues with the suspension units and Autopilot. Tesla has also had to respond to the Chinese government’s concerns that the vehicles’ onboard cameras could be used for espionage, including building a datacenter to store data collected by the cameras in China.
During Laschet’s visit to Gigafactory Berlin last Friday, Elon Musk expressed eagerness to actually open the factory: “We’re looking forward to hopefully getting the approval to make the first cars, maybe in October if we’re fortunate.”
Europe is expected to be a strong market for electric vehicles like Tesla’s. Both Germany and England have hopped aboard the growing movement to phase out sales of new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2030. Companies like Fastned and cities like Oxford are ramping up investment in charging stations for electric vehicles, many of which will include Tesla Superchargers soon if they don’t already. Experts say that it will take millions of chargers in England alone just to keep up with the expected demand. So it will be good for both Europe and Tesla if it can get Gigafactory Berlin open soon.