Tesla’s planned factory in Germany could face major delays if the manufacturer doesn’t start construction within the next two months. Brandenburg’s Economy Minister, Joerg Steinbach, recently told German outlet Handelsblatt that the 300-hectare area in Grünheide Tesla set aside is subject to environmental regulations that prohibit interfering with the local wildlife’s breeding habits.
These twitterpated critters are not to be interfered with if the company hasn’t started building by mid-March.
Until then, it’s fair game. Once crews finish clearing the land (and leftover ordnance from World War II), they can finish scaring away the animals. However, if Tesla can’t get all of that done in a couple of months and start construction on the factory, it will be forced to delay the entire project another nine months.
“That would be a situation in which I would be much more skeptical about whether we could get Tesla to stick with it,” Steinbach said, adding that Tesla should have a convincing proposal to meet local environmental demands and gain public approval for construction.
Frankly, the site sounds like it’s already become a hassle. Tesla faced immediate criticism for choosing a site near a German nature reserve and has repeatedly fielded questions about water usage, deforestation and pollution. Activists estimate the facility’s water consumption will be somewhere around 372 cubic meters (98,272 gallons) per hour. The manufacturer’s own plans for the factory state it would need to pull about 300 cubic meters of water per hour to support operations, encouraging the Brandenburg water association to express its own concerns.
“Sounds like we need to clear up a few things! Tesla won’t use this much net water on a daily basis,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted earlier this month. “It’s possibly a rare peak usage case, but not an everyday event. Also, this is not a natural forest — it was planted for use as cardboard [and] only a small part will be used for [Gigafactory 4].”
Tesla has promised to relocate several animal species and plant three times as many trees that it cuts down in a different locale. It also had to seek help from local authorities to defuse at least seven unexploded bombs dropped by the U.S. Air Force during World War II.
Grünheide’s mayor, Arne Christiani, said most of the WWII ordnance has already been cleared and believed the U.S. automaker will be able to file the relevant paperwork with time to spare. He also praised the project for providing new employment opportunities for the region. “The area has waited 20 years for something to happen there,” Christiani told Handelsblatt.
Supporters of the project are no more difficult to find than naysayers; some suggest Tesla hasn’t been as active in Grünheide as they’d like. A few even claimed the company lacks commitment and hasn’t proven it’s taking the construction seriously by risking delays. “There are rules that everyone has to follow,” Christiani explained to Bloomberg in a recent phone interview. “But we’re still optimistic and are very much within our desired time plan … There would have been opposition even if we had built a chocolate factory on the site.”
Steinbach has tried to assure citizens that Tesla wouldn’t do anything without government approval, noting that the company must ensure the plant poses “no environmental hazard.” Assuming that happens, the factory could produce as many as 500,000 cars annually and employ 12,000 people (according to Tesla’s own estimates). In the short term, that’s means 150,000 Model 3 and Y vehicles per year — starting in summer of 2021.
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