Friday, March 31

Tesla gets conditional green light for German gigafactory

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POTSDAM — Tesla has received conditional approval for its German gigafactory near Berlin, the state of Brandenburg where the plant is located said on Friday, ending months of delay for the landmark site that was initially supposed to open last summer.

The plant is key to Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s ambitions to conquer the European market, where Volkswagen currently holds the upper hand with a 25% share of electric vehicle sales to Tesla’s 13%.

“Today, March 4, is a big step into the future for Brandenburg,” state premier Dietmar Woidke told a news conference.

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Friday’s 536-page conditional building permit does not mean that Tesla can start producing right away. The electric vehicle pioneer must first prove that it fulfills numerous conditions, including in the area of ​​water use and air pollution control.

Only then will the company get the long-awaited operating permit and actually start to ramp up production towards the 500,000 battery-powered vehicles it wants to make there each year.

Tesla plans to deliver proof that it meets the conditions within the next two weeks, Brandenburg’s environment minister Axel Vogel said.

Objections against the conditional permit can be filed over the next month.

Local environmental groups have long feared that the 5 billion euro ($5.5 billion) plant, located in the small community of Gruenheide near Berlin, will negatively impact the local habitat.

Numerous public consultations, focusing primarily on that aspect delayed the process, with Musk expressing irritation on multiple occasions over the complexity of German bureaucracy.

The factory, which Tesla has begun constructing under pre-approval permits, will also include a battery plant capable of generating more than 50 gigawatt hours (GWh) per year – outstripping European competitors. ($1 = 0.9171 euros) (Reporting by Victoria Waldersee, Nadine Schimroszik and Christoph Steitz; editing by Kirsti Knolle, Miranda Murray and Louise Heavens)