ZDF Frontal 21 is under attack by Tesla supporters and investors after its documentary showed the stumbling blocks ahead of Giga Grünheide. So is RBB24 after it said the company presented rough plans for the construction, and the delays it is facing were due to constant changes. According to MLUK (Ministry of the Environment of the State of Brandenburg) though, that’s “not unusual for all larger industrial installations.”

InsideEVs contacted MLUK to learn if these changes were really a reason for the delays in the factory. According to Brandenburg’s Ministry of Environment, it is not correct that Tesla delivered only rough plans for its factory. The company would have “handed in a full application for the car production installation.”

German Documentary Points Issues At Tesla Gigafactory In Grünheide

The ministry said licensing procedures started officially with the public announcement for Giga Grünheide on January 3, 2020. The first display of the application to the public started on January 6, 2020.

RBB24’s latest article said Tesla submitted the documents in December 2019, and it has referred to that date in many other texts. However, it also said the public participation process started on January 6, 2020. The factory's original plans said Tesla needed to have a gas-powered foundry inside the factory, which was considered a flaw in the company’s plans to use only renewable energy at Giga Grünheide.

Tesla Giga Berlin (Gigafactory 4) Model Y factory interior (Tesla Q4 2020 report)

According to MLUK, “Tesla later changed parts of the production line, some of the buildings and reduced the amount of water used for production. Because these changes were regarded as substantial, the public participation process was started again on July 2.”

According to RBB24, Tesla would have submitted these changes on June 10, 2020. RBB24 links to an article that describes how the discussion had reached its sixth day on September 30, 2020. It does not say when it started, but the ZDF Frontal 21 documentary also mentions it happened in late September. MLUK’s must have mentioned the start for when the documents were available for public consultation and remarks, with the discussion taking place in September.

Tesla Giga Berlin (Gigafactory 4) Model Y factory interior (Tesla Q4 2020 report)

The reason for the third public consultation request is not clear from RBB24’s articles. The website links to an article published on February 11, 2020, that does not mention these additional changes that could motivate another round of public discussions. 

That article describes the pre-approvals for installing machines for the paint shop, stamping and die casting, and body shop. It also mentioned a discussion about whether the Oder-Spree district or the State of Brandenburg would be responsible for approving a warehouse Tesla plans to have in Grünheide.

We have contacted Philip Barnstorf, the author of the latest RBB24 article, to hear what he has to say about MLUK’s response to our questions. He was swamped but found time to send us his take on what MLUK said:

"I didn't write the first documents were not 'full,' which is the term MLUK uses. Instead, I characterized them as 'rough' for the following reasons: 

The second plan, handed in six months after the first draft, in June 2020, reduced the estimated water consumption of the factory by one-third. Also, it planned with several hundred underground piles reaching groundwater level. Tesla told the Brandenburgian government the new plans would reduce 'all emissions' and the energy consumption of the factory. In light of such major changes, I think it's fair to say that the first draft was 'rough.'"

Barnstorf has another reason to reinforce his choice of words:

"Also, the Brandenburgian Minister of economy, Jörg Steinbach, said to RBB last summer that Tesla was constantly 'thinking out of the box,' which put the authorities under pressure."

Regardless of the rough plans or a full application for Giga Grünheide, the issue is the deadline. “Larger industrial installations” in Germany take a long time to be completed. Another article from Barnstorf remembers it took almost four years for BMW to finish its factory in Leipzig.

If Tesla takes the same time to get there, Giga Grünheide will deliver its first cars in 2024, not this summer. Doing it sooner is what may set Tesla apart from other larger industrial installations in the country.

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