From Lake Priestersee and Lake Werlsee to Lake Liebenberger, a lake district stretches just outside Berlin - until recently almost untouched nature. This has changed since Elon Musk and Tesla built their new European plant in Grünheide. Politicians want to demonstrate that building projects around Berlin are not delayed for years. As a reminder: Berlin Brandenburg Airport was only finished 13 years later than originally planned, the commissioning was postponed countless times. Construction of the Gigafactory began at the beginning of 2020, electric cars are to be manufactured in Brandenburg this year and the world’s largest battery factory is to go into production..
Grünheide and environmental policy
Early on, politicians recognized the opportunity offered by the Tesla Gigafactory. The red-black-green state government quickly brought the industrial area of Grünheide into play when Elon Musk was looking for a location in Europe. Despite all the environmental burdens caused by such a huge project, even the Greens expressed themselves positively in their statements on the Gigafactory project:
“The Regional Association welcomes the settlement of Tesla in Grünheide in Brandenburg and will accompany the settlement process critically and constructively. The establishment of an innovative US car company underlines once again that electric drive is still on the rise in cars and that the German car industry has overslept the development.”
While the Greens calculated the environmental problems caused by such a construction with the aim of an energy transition by electric drive, the critical voices remained largely limited to environmental associations. Only the splinter party of the Ecologically Democratic Party (ÖDP), which had achieved just 0.6 percent of the votes in the last state elections, demanded together with citizens ' initiatives the demolition of the project of Tesla. Christian Rechholz, Federal Chairman of the ÖDP, warned of lack of water and extreme drought. The ongoing construction of the Gigafactory for electric cars is already endangering the drinking water protection area on which it is being built. With the additional construction of the world’s largest battery factory, Brandenburg and Berlin would finally be on dry land. The right-wing AfD also tried to make its mark by rejecting the project. Last June, she protested in Grünheide with a rally against the location of the factory – which caused irritation and rejection among environmentalists such as the Grünheide citizens ' Initiative. The AfD Bayern criticised Tesla for deliberately recruiting Polish employees.
The Naturschutzbund (NABU) and the Grüne Liga Brandenburg filed a complaint to prevent trees from being felled on the Gigafactory grounds. They were also afraid that lizards and snake snakes would be killed by the grubbing up on the approximately 83-hectare site. After that, Tesla had to temporarily stop the clearing of the forest area.
But the lawsuits were crushed in record time. As early as February 2020, the Higher Administrative Court (OVG) Berlin-Brandenburg rejected the applications of the Green League Brandenburg and the Association for Landscape Conservation and Species Protection in Bavaria against premature forest clearance. As early as summer 2021, 12,000 employees are expected to produce 500,000 electric cars annually.
While the renewal of many industrial wastelands in the Berlin region has failed due to bureaucratic hurdles, the large-scale project in Grünheide proves that it can also happen quickly in Germany if politics and business want to carry out a large-scale project. However, the final approval for construction is still missing. The Group accepts this risk. He deposited 100 million euros as security if the gigafactory had to be dismantled.
The car industry is being ploughed
The fact that the Tesla factory is about more than an ordinary industrial project can already be seen in the Green Party’s statement, with which they explicitly supported the project. They see it as a"wake-up call for the German automotive industry, which has so far missed the start of e-mobility and thus a forward-looking economic development". For Chancellor Angela Merkel, the speed with which the gigafactory is being implemented is an example of how German laws and funding opportunities can be used to push things through in a short period of time.
Tesla is intended to give a boost to the innovative strength in Germany that is no longer trusted by German car companies. Professor Stefan Bratzel from the" Fachhochschule der Wirtschaft in Bergisch Gladbach “comments in the” Zeit":
“At the same time, Tesla has convinced customers technologically. The Model S overcomes the range anxiety that inhibits the purchase impulse for electric cars with the help of a large number of lithium-ion batteries that enable ranges of over 500 kilometers.”
Tesla - new flagship company for the automotive industry
Coping with such fears for the future is important at a time when the flagships of petrol engines such as Daimler, Volkswagen and BMW seem increasingly disconnected from e-mobility. While its star is fading in the car industry, the Brandenburg “Gigafactory” stands for the energy transition in the car industry.
The German car manufacturers are also trying to turn the corner, but they are running out of time. Thus, Tesla could become the Trojan horse in the automotive industry that plows the corporate landscape. The Brandenburg project is intended to kill two birds with one stone: On the one hand, Germany is to remain the location of a world-leading car-making nation. At the same time, jobs are to be secured which are on the verge of collapse due to the collapse of employees in a crisis industry.
Tesla is also a glimmer of hope for Berlin and its Brandenburg surroundings in order to overcome the long-term structural weakness of the economy. Remember: West Berlin was always economically a lightweight, which was isolated from the West by the GDR. And after the fall of the wall, Brandenburg was also one of those East German federal states that ended up economically in deindustrialization. As early as 2001, Brandenburg had hoped to win the contract for a car plant in Grünheide from the car manufacturer BMW. BMW wanted to invest around one billion Deutschmarks for this, but ultimately decided in favour of Leipzig.
Tesla is seen as an opportunity for the East German countries to get their act together. The Brandenburg Gigafactory could be the new future of German premium carmakers. No wonder that the green economy senator Ramona Pop said on Twitter: “Who has visions, comes to Berlin! Welcome to the metropolitan area, Tesla!“The state has donated billions for this.