It is still a closely guarded secret, typical for Tesla: Elon Musk is now serious about building “the world’s largest battery cell factory” alongside the giant car factory in Grünheide. Since this spectacular announcement by the Tesla boss a few weeks ago, there has been some puzzlement as to when the U.S. company will apply for a permit for this, where the site for battery production in Grünheide should even be – and whether this will be done in parallel with the main approval process still underway for the car plant, which has so far been built with advance permits and is largely complete in its shell. Despite delays, the targeted start of production remains July 2021.
And now Tesla’s preparations for Musk’s battery factory have apparently progressed. According to information from the Tagesspiegel, Tesla has now submitted a building application to the Oder-Spree district building authority for another large hall on the previous 300-hectare site, which will be used for other purposes for a transitional period, but will then accommodate battery cell production for the Teslas manufactured next door.
When asked, Mario Behnke, spokesman for the district office, confirmed “that just before Christmas, the Oder-Spree district received a building application from Tesla for a warehouse.” According to Behnke, there is no application for a battery factory. The district does not provide further details. Environment Minister Axel Vogel (Greens) had also confirmed on Wednesday in the technical committee of the state parliament: “There is no application for a battery factory.”
But according to Tagesspiegel information, the dimension of the building applied for at the district already shows that it must be about more than a warehouse. For comparison: a soccer field according to UEFA standards is 7140 square meters in size. The building on the Gigafabrik site, which Tesla has now initially applied for as a “warehouse,” is reportedly to be about three times as large, i.e., it will have a floor area of almost 22,000 square meters.
Environmental hazards? Tesla talks about “dry batteries
If a battery factory is actually built there, it would be the world’s first production facility near Berlin to manufacture both electric vehicles and the batteries needed for them. Tesla’s battery plans are highly controversial because the site, which includes a cleared pine forest, is located in a water protection area. Nature conservation groups and citizens’ initiatives already fear negative effects on the water balance at the car plant – and warn of a “chemical factory.
However, the technologically new generation of battery cells that Musk has announced for his European factory is supposed to be much more environmentally friendly than conventional batteries. The battery factory will require little water, process fewer heavy metals, they say. When Tesla representatives appeared in parliamentary group meetings of the SPD and CDU in the state parliament a few days ago, the talk afterwards was of “dry batteries.” The second Tesla project in Grünheide fits into the European battery promotion and is also supported by the Federal Ministry of Economics.
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The fact that Tesla is jumping ahead with construction of the building is apparently related to the time pressure on the high-speed construction site. It is still completely open which approval procedure there will be for any battery production, said Axel Steffen, department head at the Ministry of the Environment in the state parliament committee. Either it runs after building code or there is a further procedure after federal immission control law.
Tesla deposit: Details were still being haggled over until the very end
By Friday, Tesla was actually supposed to deposit or prove 100 million euros to the state for any dismantling costs. According to information from this newspaper, this security issue was clarified in the evening – after a poker game up to the last minute. Previously, the state environmental agency had even extended the deadline again at the request of the U.S. company – until January 20, which is now no longer valid. “It is assumed that a final agreement on the provision of the security deposit will be available shortly,” it said already in the previously amended notice of January 15, 2021, which promptly occurred hours later. Tesla had let a first deadline in December pass, leading to a brief halt in construction.
The deposit is common because Tesla is already allowed to build so much at its own risk even without main approval. For days, it was rumored that Tesla would transfer the 100 million euros to its German subsidiary Grohmann, which would then issue a guarantee statement, but this was apparently difficult in terms of details. At least this problem has now been solved.