Tesla Is Really Unhappy With Germany

Tesla says its factory 'helps fight climate change'.
Brad Bergan

Tesla says it's "irritated" with administrative delays in building a new gigafactory in Berlin and suggested reform proposals for the European country. "Tesla has experienced first hand how obstacles in German authorization procedures slow down industrial transformation," said the company in a letter to Berlin's most executive administrative court, seen by the AFP.

Tesla argues its Gigafactory Berlin 'helps fight climate change'

"If these obstacles are not dealt with quickly, there is a high risk that Germany will miss its climate targets," said Tesla, in support of a legal case — in which the company faces the German environmentalist group DUH. Tesla argued that its time working with German bureaucracy was relevant to the legal case — adding that Germany should "modernize itself" to increase the chances of its meeting a reduced-emissions target of 55% of 1990 levels by the year 2030.

The all-electric automaker aims to build 500,000 units per year in its European gigafactory near Berlin, Germany, a massive undertaking initially due to begin in July of this year. However, the location of the forthcoming gigafactory has only acquired provisional construction permits, with Tesla moving forward with local officials' authorization — building with final authorization still pending.

Full permissions to build on the site have been delayed amid a series of claims local environmental groups have made against Tesla — involving issues with water supply and the ethical relocation of wildlife. But despite public objections, Elon Musk's company argues in its letter that the Berlin gigafactory "helps fight climate change."

In December of last year, the German State of Brandenburg's Environment Agency ordered Tesla to stop its installation of manufacturing equipment in its paint shop — in addition to the clearing of a tree farm at the Tesla Giga Berlin site. This was to remain in effect until the company had completed paying a security deposit of $123 million.

"As long as the money is not there, the two partial permits are suspended," read a report from the German news service Der Tagesspiegel. "This change happens in the middle of the ongoing proceedings before the Higher Administrative Court of Berlin-Brandenburg (OVG) for the clearance of 82.2 hectares planned by Tesla, against which the Nature Protection Association and the Green League are suing."

Tesla's German expansion is taking strange turns

Included in Tesla's recent letter are 10 reform proposals Tesla thinks will improve German approval schedules — consisting of additional digitalization, faster flows to designate projects as sustainable, and more. Surprisingly, the company emphasized support of the legal action from DUH — which set out to impose stricter government measures to hasten the country's move toward climate goals.

Juergen Resch, president of DUH, told AFP that Tesla's intervention on the issue was a welcome surprise, according to TechXplore report. "The unusual step will bring ideas and impulses from outside into the discussion in Germany about our oversized bureaucracy," said Resch. However, he added that DUH will break with Tesla's proposals on some counts — encouraging activist organizations and NGOs to stay in the loop.

The activist group DUH is known in Germany for its moderate success in banning diesel vehicles from city centers, and has no ties to environmental groups behind the legal claims against the forthcoming Tesla factory. The company's Berlin Gigafactory is one of the most frenetic international expansions in manufacturing history, and the back-and-forth is taking strange a strange turn as one of the most wealthy companies in the world attempts to persuade a nation of its merits.

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