Despite Tesla’s grumbling about delays in Germany’s rubberstamping of its plans for Gigafactory Berlin, the company has updated its application for approval with more details on its battery manufacturing plans and expand the Gigafactory’s capacity for manufacturing some of its vehicle models. It also includes an update on expected water consumption that indicates lower and more predictable usage than previously planned.
Tesla had previously criticized German regulators for bureaucratic red tape that slowed down the approval process. It had indicated that the delays could force it to push back the planned opening date to early 2022, although the Gigafactory now officially seems on track to begin production and delivery in late 2021. Tesla originally planned to open Gigafactory Berlin on July 1.
Previous scraps with German regulators also include a 12 million Euro fine for failing to keep up with requirements related to the recycling of old vehicle batteries. Automakers in Germany are required to issue public notifications related to the acceptance of batteries that have reached the end of their useful life.
An automakers’ union called IG Metalls has also threatened to work with local politicians to target Tesla in the wake of Tesla’s hiring of former Mercedes-Benz manager René Reif to manage the construction of the Mercedes-Benz factory. It is unclear what IG Metalls hoped to accomplish by this beyond simply making noise about Tesla’s reputation for being anti-union and criticizing an individual for making a career decision that had nothing to do with them.
At the time, an IG Metalls spokesman referred to the move as a “betrayal” even though it may simply have been a matter of Tesla deciding to replace a former manager whose mismanagement included failing to pay a water bill, which led to water service to the construction site being temporarily shut off. It is likely to be a simple matter of a large union making threats without having any regulatory clout to back itself up in a matter of hiring that did not violate any regulations in and of itself.
Although the changes in Tesla’s plans for the factory may have slowed down the approval process, legal challenges from environmental groups that include a court case involving Tesla’s alleged failure to relocate endangered wildlife species that would be impacted by the construction may also be a variable. Factors outside of the regulatory approval process might include an extreme environmentalist group claiming responsibility for a suspected arson case that damaged power lines leading to Gigafactory Berlin.
Elon Musk announced a more efficient battery-making process that would use less water and fewer moving parts at last year’s Battery Day event. It may have simply taken a while for this new process to work its way into the regulatory paperwork for Gigafactory Berlin, which would explain the new plan that calls for a lower water consumption. Residents of the Berlin area had expressed concern about how the factory’s water usage could impact the availability of the area’s water supply.
Regulators are currently considering whether to open a public commenting period before moving forward with the revised application. They say that they will have a decision within days.