Tesla is reworking plans for its Berlin-area Gigafactory to answer criticism from environmental groups, a local government official told Bloomberg. The EV trendsetter has faced concerns from locals about deforestation and water usage. In February, the company was forced to temporarily halt construction.
New blueprints to be presented in the next couple of weeks will address some of the concerns by reducing the amount of fresh water consumed and waste water generated, said Joerg Steinbach, the Economy Minister for the state of Brandenburg. There will be an eight-week process of public review, followed by an open hearing in early September.
“We expect a proposal that in sum will be more environmentally acceptable and thereby even more approvable,” Steinbach told Bloomberg. “I assume that within the first half of next year cars will be rolling off the conveyor belt there.”
Tesla’s timing could be propitious—the German government has just announced an economic stimulus plan that includes support for vehicle electrification and renewable energy. However, Germany is famous for its green tape (even more so than California), which could have the ironic effect of slowing down the company’s plans to produce sustainable cars. And Germans’ famous inclination for highly structured planning has already clashed with the Californians’ fast-moving, icon-smashing style.
Dealing with Tesla’s unconventional business practices “requires a lot of flexibility,” said Steinbach, a former manager at pharmaceutical giant Schering who has traveled widely in China and the US. “I find out-of-the box great, but at some point, it becomes exhausting.”
Steinbach told Bloomberg that his staff are in daily contact with representatives from Tesla, working to cut through the paperwork and get the necessary infrastructure in place for an on-time opening. He doesn’t seem to expect any major roadblocks. “I think we’re now past the point of no return,” Steinbach said.
As part of Germany’s new increased electric-vehicle incentive package, the country will require gas stations to offer EV charging. Details about the plan are not yet known, such as the timeline and type of required chargers. But EV advocates quickly praised the move as a boost to electric-car adoption.
The first 500 units of the all-electric Aiways U5 SUV are on their way to Europe. Their arrival will mark the first batch of Made-in-China EVs to be put on European roads, paving the way for a new level of affordability for long-range electric vehicles.