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Tesla’s German Gigafactory faces local hurdles as it nears completion

SpaceX founder and Tesla CEO Elon Musk looks on as he visits the construction site of Tesla’s gigafactory in Gruenheide, near Berlin, Germany, May 17, 2021.

Michele Tantussi | Reuters

Electric carmaker Tesla is clearing the final hurdles to get its massive German “Gigafactory” up and running in the new year.

The Berlin-Brandenburg plant has been in development for over two years and although the investment and jobs boost has been praised by many, including the mayor of the nearby town Gründheide, its construction has been impacted by several local disputes and oppositions.

The latest hurdle, as reported by regional outlet RBB24, involves a dispute over a water pumping facility in the region where the Gigafactory is located could have knock-on effects for the factory’s operations.

A hearing on the matter was due to take place in the administrative court in Frankfurt (Oder) earlier this month but was postponed. The case relates to action taken by environmental groups against local authorities over the supply of water in the region, which would include pumping water to Tesla’s facility. It is expected to consume large quantities of water annually, which has drawn concern from some environmental groups.

Tesla did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

It’s the latest development in a long winding saga for Tesla and its high-profile CEO Elon Musk — and getting the German facility fully operational is a vital component in Tesla’s future.

“Berlin is a linchpin to Tesla’s broadening capacity plans for 2022 and beyond,” Dan Ives, managing director at Wedbush Securities, told CNBC.

“The red tape has been enormous for Tesla to get through and it’s key that the factory is producing cars by early January.”

Local hurdles

The shell of the future battery factory on the Tesla Gigafactory construction site east of Berlin.

Patrick Pleul | picture alliance | Getty Images

Ross Gerber, CEO of Gerber Kawasaki, an investor in Tesla, told CNBC that he is not too concerned with the hurdles it has faced. “It’s not a big concern in the sense of we know that the factory will open soon,” he said.

“We’re extremely bullish on the European markets and we’re seeing a lot of demand for Tesla.”

However, some have voiced concerns over its potential environmental effects too, with the water supply issue being a frequent bugbear. In October, Musk brushed off the question, saying there are plenty of water supplies in the region.

In its annual impact report for 2020, Tesla said that the new facility in Germany as well as its site in Texas will result in “further reductions in our water usage per vehicle,” but acknowledged that water supply is a challenge due to climate change.

Read more about electric vehicles from CNBC Pro

“Water is becoming increasingly scarce as the climate changes. That is why we are reducing our water usage throughout our operations as much as possible,” the report said.

Elsewhere, Tesla has faced court action over the number of trees being cut down around the German construction site, while environmentalists expressed concern over the impact on native wildlife like sand lizards.

“I think they underestimated the painstaking bureaucracy that they would encounter in trying to build out its Berlin footprint. They didn’t expect to spend three months talking about cutting down trees,” Ives said.

European market

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2021-12-24 04:01:53

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