Dhe lettering is still there. White on a black background, the “Giga” stretches across the facade of the Tesla factory in Grünheide, Brandenburg, so that drivers can see it clearly from the nearby A 10. It’s been a good three months since everyone got dressed up: the Federal Chancellor, the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs, Tesla boss Elon Musk and the electric car factory. The official opening was on March 22, after just over two years of planning and construction. This is “a sign of many, many things that are in motion in Germany,” praised Olaf Scholz (SPD) at the time. Robert Habeck (Greens) would like Tesla to have speed in other areas of the economy as well.
But there hasn’t been much to see of the much-vaunted Tesla pace lately. The problems are piling up in Grünheide. Customers are complaining on internet forums that the delivery of their Model Y is being delayed. There seems to be a problem with the drive unit. Tesla does not comment on this. The ramp-up of production is also not going as planned. Musk recently described the factories in Germany and Texas in the United States as “giant money incinerators.” Among other things, batteries from China are missing. And then there is Tesla’s plan to expand in Grünheide. The company would like to use more than 100 hectares in addition to its 300 hectares. For a freight station, logistics, a company daycare center, nothing delicate, you might think. But unexpected resistance arose in the community.
A new development plan is necessary – that can take a while
In the past two years, a lot of frustration has built up in the 8,800-inhabitant town. Lawsuits against the clearing of the forest and the additional water pumping for Tesla came to nothing. Meanwhile, the State Environment Agency approved one premature construction project after another and finally the factory as a whole. The Tesla critics see it as a provocation that this should now be even larger than originally planned, that it should protrude even further into the water protection area. This “slice-by-slice” approach doesn’t work that way, says Steffen Schorcht from the local citizens’ initiative. “300 hectares must be enough. There is still a lot of space on the existing area.”
There is currently forest on the area that Tesla also wants to develop. Just like in the past where the factory is located today. But there is one crucial difference: the original area had long been intended as a commercial area. There was a finished development plan, which is why Tesla was able to start work in 2020 just three months after submitting the planning application. There is no such plan for the site we are dealing with now. It has to be set up first. Under normal circumstances, this often takes years.
Politicians have to react
The mayor of Grünheide, the independent Arne Christiani, has supported Tesla’s plans from the start. He wanted this factory, these jobs, this tax revenue. At the beginning of June, a slim majority of the members of the main committee of the municipality voted to initiate the procedure for a new development plan for the expansion. However, such a majority did not emerge in the group of community representatives, which is why Christiani took the item off the agenda for the most recent meeting. There is still a need for clarification, it said. One would like to know more about this, but Christiani has no time for a conversation. Now he is also being confronted with the accusation that he was a Stasi informer. The next council meeting is scheduled for September. How it will continue after that is open.
Even if Scholz and Habeck have other worries today than the Tesla factory in Grünheide, the focus on NATO’s armament against Russia and the looming gas shortage: What is happening in Grünheide cannot be irrelevant to politicians. After all, she wanted to use the example of the Tesla factory to show that Germany is better than its reputation. That it doesn’t stick to the combustion engine, but is ready for the age of electromobility. That it can build faster than at Berlin’s BER breakdown airport or in Stuttgart 21. And that the sand lizard’s needs are not the measure of all things – at least not only.