It is widely known that Tesla likes to do things in its own way. While that may work with cars and software, it is probably what prevented the company from having a final building permit for its Giga Grünheide in Brandenburg, Germany, with four months left before the planned production start. RBB24 tried to explain what caused the delays and concluded Tesla’s strategy to “deliver now, fix later” was the main culprit.
Update: some dates reported here were wrong. Tesla submitted new plans in June 2020, not in October. It is not clear when other changes were submitted to make environmental groups demand a third public hearing. The text is now corrected.
The RBB24 article mentions complications and bureaucracy, but they would be far from being the main issues. After all, bureaucracy was established way before Tesla decided to build a plant in a groundwater reserve in Germany.
According to RBB24, Tesla submitted only rough plans for construction in December 2019. These plans have been submitted to public display for an entire month to receive objections from interested citizens.
These objections should have been reviewed in March, but postponed that to September. The ZDF Frontal 21 documentary that brought the lack of a final building permit to our attention shows how that public meeting went. In June 2020, Tesla submitted new plans to the MLUK (Ministry of the Environment of the State of Brandenburg).
These plans included using less water – a major concern for Grünheide locals – but also the application of 560 foundation piles that invaded the groundwater table and a different factory design to make better use of the space. That demanded two more months of delay for public display of the changes and more objections. RBB24 links a February 2020 article to state Tesla submitted other changes to the construction. Environmental groups would be demanding a third meeting due to them, but it is not clear which changes have caused that.
InsideEVs got in touch with MLUK to confirm the issues pointed out by the documentary, such as Tesla not having a final building permit until now. According to Brandenburg’s Ministry of Environment, the German Immission Control Act (Bundes-Immissionsschutzgesetz – BimSchG) allows preliminary permits to start building works before the final permission is granted. That would be done for almost all bigger investments all over Germany.
Questioned about a possible deadline for the final building permit, MLUK told InsideEVs it couldn’t provide one because “the permitting process is very complicated and time-consuming.” However, it stressed that it is “necessary before the first car leaves the factory” and that “there is still a chance that the permit will not be granted.” If that happens, Tesla would have to dismantle everything it built with pre-approvals.
For the first car to be ready, it will need a battery pack. Unless Tesla plans to import 4680 cells from any of its other plants, production could take even longer. MLUK confirmed Tesla has not applied for a building permit for a cell factory in Grünheide because it is a separate project.
We also asked MLUK if the battery plant could be built over a groundwater protection area. The ministry told us it did not know if the factory would not be constructed there. If it were, the cell plant could be built there “depending on what sort of chemicals will be used and how they are handled.”
Finally, we asked MLUK about the changes RBB24 brought up as a reason for the delays but received no answer about that so far. We will either update this article as soon as we get it or write a new one.