Business & Economy

Tesla’s 1st European factory begins operating in Germany

Berlin, Mar 22 (EFE).- German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his economy and energy minister, Robert Habeck, on Tuesday participated in the inauguration ceremony for the first Tesla factory in Europe, at which they reaffirmed their support for electro-mobility as a technology of the future.

Elon Musk, the CEO of the US electric vehicle manufacturer, also attended the ceremony, at which he personally delivered the first 30 Model Y vehicles made at the plant to their new owners against a background of futuristic images and techno music.

“Danke, Deutschland!” (Thanks, Germany) wrote the magnate on his Twitter account after inaugurating the factory, located on 300 hectares (about 750 acres) near the town of Grunheide, just 5 kilometers (a little over 3 miles) from Berlin.

“Electro-mobility will determine the mobility of the future,” said Scholz, who emphasized that the relatively rapid two-year construction period for the plant shows that “Germany can move fast.”

Habeck also touted the plant as an example of success and said that it was operating “24 hours a day” to fulfill the coalition government’s target of accelerating the bidding process in the industry.

The economy minister added that Tesla’s selection of Germany as the site for its plant is proof that the country is viewed as the “market leader” for electric vehicles, and he predicted that in the future vehicles for individuals will remain in demand, although there will be a trend toward more ride-sharing.

“That is why the manufacturers more and more are … transforming themselves into mobility providers,” he said in a brief meeting with reporters at which he emphasized the importance of electric vehicles in reducing dependence on petroleum, an issue that has emerged also within the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Showing that we can not only replace oil with oil (from elsewhere) but also with electricity is a nice symbol nowadays,” he said.

When the Grunheide factory is operating at full capacity it will turn out 500,000 vehicles per year, along with electric batteries for them, and employ 12,000 workers.

The plant will manufacture the well-known Model Y, an electric four-wheel drive, dual-motor SUV with a range of 533 km (330 mi.) and a market price of about 58,000 euros ($52,600).

Tesla requested the appropriate permits in December 2019 and began production at the plant in March 2022, a longer process than Musk had originally hoped, given that he had wanted the plant to begin operating last summer.

The company’s efforts to get the proper permits was not without tensions with local authorities, who demanded a deposit of 100 million euros ($91 million) in case it was necessary to dismantle the factory, and Tesla refused to put down that money up front.

In all, the factory plans had to be presented three times and Tesla had to pay fines for installing certain structures without the corresponding permits.

Right from the start, local ecological organizations resisted the construction of the plant, pointing to the presumed environmental impact it would have, in particular on water consumption, and they tried fruitlessly on several occasions to halt work on it via legal maneuvering.

The unions, meanwhile, complained that the firm resorted to tricks to control the recent company committee and that the salaries offered by Tesla are 20 percent below the prevailing norm.

Last October, the plant was almost finished and held an open house but those responsible for certifying it were still reviewing more than 800 objections presented by assorted entities.

In the final stretch, a court declared the agreement to supply water to the factory to be illegal due to a technicality and the German Land (or “state”) of Brandenburg had to intervene to ensure that it would have sufficient water to operate.

Finally, a 600-page statement was issued on March 4 granting permission for the plant to begin operations and summarizing the local administration’s “titanic task” in bringing the project to fruition, but various ecological organizations announced that they will pursue legal measures against the decision.

The water scarcity problem in the region, on the other hand, is still not resolved and experts believe that in the future it could make it difficult for other companies linked to the factory to establish themselves in the area.

EFE cph/jam/ads/bp

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