Tesla experiences possible barriers as it rushes to compete in Europe

The German battery factory that Tesla has in mind is finally going to be ‘the world’s hugest,’ Elon Musk, the CEO, informed the latest European Battery conference in Germany. However, according to local media reports, its construction is encountering massive resistance from environmental campaigners and locals.

The occurrence of this resistance coincides with the wavering of Tesla’s market share in a flourishing European EV market.  A one-year rolling sales report by Matthias Schmidt, the EV analyst, says that the sales of Tesla Europe declined in 2020 before the Volkswagen brand outdid them from the beginning of autumn after the ID 3 EV’s launch.

The latest Tesla battery plant is known as the ‘Gigafactory’ and is situated 20 miles outside Berlin. It will be constructed together with another production line, which will present the Model Y, and more models may be introduced from next year. Musk remarked that the production plant will at first go up to a yearly production of 500,000 units after it becomes fully operational.

Even though operations at Grunheid’s production line buildings have made significant advancements in a short time, Tesla is experiencing issues acquiring a permit to go on working on the battery production plant in particular.

Local press reports say that when about 300 hectares of pine trees were cut down for the site, local protests now focuses on the possible water consumption of the paint plant and the battery production facility.

The German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel indicates that the Gigafactory foundations and the plant’s shell are set up. However, more developments on the building were being put on hold because of delays of building permits, and most of the present construction work is finalized through ‘advance permits.’

There are speculations that this might be the result of a hearing by the local licensing authority that took place at the end of September. The meeting, which lasted eight days, was discussing more than 400 protests from various parties.

Reports from the local media state that these protests are about these two points:

–  The kind of paint plant Tesla intends for the site.

–  How removing the forest and setting up paved surfaces instead, could decrease the quantity of rainfall that flows to the natural reservoirs of the area, affecting the local population’s access to water.

The reports also indicate that the local water firm may request Tesla to construct its artificial reservoir to service the facility. Musk jetted into Berlin in early November to tour the Grunheid site and met with Jorg Steinbach, the Minister of Economics in Brandenburg. Der Tagesspiegel stated that Steinbach said that the meeting, which took an hour was about the Gigafactory’s delays.

‘As to be expected, we also discussed the schedule and the approval procedure.’ Elon Musk requested an ‘outline of what could be achieved and what couldn’t, as it would endanger the project’s legal security,’ stated the paper.

There has been a delay in plans to begin setting up production equipment on the production lines and also in the general ‘environmental approval procedure’ for the battery factory. It casts doubt on Musk’s grand time-table for manufacturing vehicles in Europe by the summer of 2021. But, Tesla still officially says that it’s still on the right path, and the factory will be completed in July.

Meanwhile, Tesla has started exporting Chinese-manufactured Model 3s to Europe. These vehicles have LPF batteries (lithium iron phosphate) installed in them, and it is believed that they are much cheaper in contrast to the NMC nickel-manganese-cobalt batteries that US Teslas use. It led to the reduction of Chinese retail prices for vehicles by about 10%.

But, many sources quote homologation specifics for the Chinese-manufactured Model 3 that showed that the cheaper batteries are much heavier (by 200kg) compared to the NMC units.

The outcome is that the car’s general carrying capability has been decreased to about 300kg, stated Seeking Alpha, the financial investment site.

image Paul2015 / Shutterstock.com

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