Construction of Tesla’s Giga factory in Berlin has run into yet another obstacle. The EV company was ordered to stop construction for the time being after an injunction filed by environmentalists was approved by the German courts.
This delay is not good news for Elon Musk’s first European production facility as he has set an ambitious timeline in which to get the factory up and running by the middle of 2021. Tesla has plans to produce 500,000 cars annually at the new factory making the US-based EV manufacturer a serious rival for German carmakers like Volkswagen, Daimler, and BMW.
Tesla was in the process of clearing a forest when environmentalists, the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) and Green League, stepped and argued that this is going to endanger the natural habitats of snakes and lizards in the area and that the company wasn’t doing enough to ensure their protection.
The environmentalist bodies feel that with Tesla’s deforestation, it is going to destroy the habitats of two protected species, the sand lizards and smooth snakes, and the construction will disturb the reptiles’ hibernation during winter.
While the electric car manufacturer suspends activities, the court will have time to investigate these claims before a final ruling is made. This is the second time within a week that the court has stepped in to suspend Tesla’s land clearing. On Thursday, the high administration court overturned a lower court’s ruling that had permitted the EV company to resume clearing the forest.
The lower court’s decision came after it had deemed Tesla had taken the necessary steps to help ensure the survival of the local reptiles. While the lower court deliberated on this, Tesla had to halt its activities in cutting down pine trees on its 83-hectare (205 acres) site.
Tesla has had a few issues this year with the German courts where a couple of months ago, they faced delays with construction when the complaints first started regarding the impact on the wildlife and the water supply. In October, Tesla went through the formal process of consultations with local residents and relevant groups, which saw the lodgment of more than 400 observations and complaints. After concerns were raised about the factory’s impact on the region’s water resources, Tesla agreed to cut back on its water consumption.
Chairman of the Green League in Brandenburg, Heinz Herwig Mascher said in a statement, "Even Tesla cannot and must not place itself above the law,
Since Tesla boss, Elon Musk announced the plans for the new Berlin factory in November last year, there has been a lot of hype around its completion date in July next year when it plans to start operations. It is also supposed to be the site of the world's largest battery factory, top-class paint facility, as well as an electric car production line.
The issue is getting political with the German Christian Democrat and Free Democrat parties arguing that the environmentalists are going to damage the appeal for future businesses who want to set up shop in the European country.
What could be a further headache for Tesla is that they have not actually been granted official permission to build its Giga factory. Germany's environment ministry did give the US carmaker permission to prepare the site at its own risk, which meant clearing and felling thousands of trees.
The site that Tesla chose has had its fair share of hiccups. Before the carmaker could start preparations, everyone got a blasting surprise when seven unexploded World War II bombs were discovered in the area. In a twist of irony, the bombs were dropped by the US Air Force during the war last century where a US carmaker hopes to build one of the best factories. German authorities were able to safely defuse the ordinances and Tesla could start clearing the site.