At first the electric car manufacturer in Grünheide didn’t want to manufacture batteries – now suddenly it did. The corresponding application has not yet been made.

The piles are already in place: the construction site of the Tesla Giga Factory in Grünheide

Elon Musk has no shortage of ideas about what to do with the 300 hectare property in Grünheide, Brandenburg. Building the fourth Tesla factory worldwide, that much is clear. But what exactly should be included changes relatively frequently. Sometimes the founder of the American electric car manufacturer thinks out loud about an underground rave cave in which Rammstein will perform at the opening. In a sketch he recently showed on the short message service Twitter, a green terrace with a kind of swimming pool can be seen on the roof. But while such gimmicks have little influence on the functionality of the factory, the back and forth with another detail is more important: when it comes to the question of battery production in Grünheide.

In the building application that the company submitted to the Brandenburg State Environment Agency at the beginning of January, this was still an integral part of the factory – not surprising for a manufacturer of electric cars. The surprise was all the greater when Tesla submitted a new application in early July. In it, the automaker explicitly mentions the “elimination of plant A007 battery production (battery pack)” as one of the most important changes. Now, just a short time later, the company is making another U-turn: “There will be local cell production that meets the needs of the Berlin factory,” said Musk in the company’s online conference on the latest quarterly figures. Which means that the application that has just been submitted would theoretically be invalid.

Upon request, the company confirms that there should in fact now be battery production on the site. How this can be embedded in the planning is currently being examined. The one billion battery cells announced by Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (CDU) should play an important role. The first consortium to receive state funding for setting up battery cell production in Germany has been known for a long time. These include the French manufacturer PSA with its German subsidiary Opel. The second consortium will be announced shortly.

Is that a rooftop swimming pool?  Depiction of Tesla from the Gigafactory Berlin in Grünheide.
Is that a rooftop swimming pool? Depiction of Tesla from the Gigafactory Berlin in Grünheide.: Image: dpa

It is an open secret that Tesla made an effort to raise funds. About the outcome of the talks, Altmaier recently said in an interview with the FAZ: “Tesla will get money if it meets our conditions. That means: Germany must not only be used as an extended workbench, research and development must also take place here. ”This is currently being examined. “If so, which I very much hope, Tesla will be part of the consortium that we will launch this fall.”

In July 2021, Tesla wants to start production in the factory in Grünheide. Around 500,000 vehicles are to be produced there annually, and possibly more after further construction phases. More than 10.00 employees are said to work in the plant. The latest building application, which may have been outdated after Musk’s battery announcement, is still available until August 3rd. The public hearing, which was planned for mid-March, but has been postponed due to the Corona precautionary measures, is to take place on September 23. More than 370 objections to the building project were received back then.

One of the main points of criticism has always been Tesla’s large demand for water at peak times. The fact that in the application submitted at the beginning of July, in addition to the battery and plastic production, was seen as an attempt to reduce water consumption. The fact that Tesla is now planning to manufacture batteries again should alarm the opponents of the project. The local water board has warned several times that the company’s needs are too much for the region. The state government does not see it that way.

Despite the lack of general approval, work is already being carried out on the construction site. The first pillars for the shell of the hall are already in place. Environmentalists are skeptical that Tesla, unlike initially planned, is now stabilizing the foundation with stakes in the earth. The Immission Control Act expressly allows early construction work, but each one must be approved. In the event that overall permission for the project is not granted, Tesla would have to restore the site to its original state, i.e. tear down everything again and plant a pine forest.