American carmaker Tesla is hoping to double the production capacity of its German factory, the only one of its kind in Europe, and has submitted an application to expand the site near Berlin, the company and local authorities said on Tuesday.
Major expansion project at Tesla’s Grünheide plant in Germany
Elon Musk’s group confirmed to AFP that it had “submitted a modification application for the Gigafactory Berlin-Brandenburg to the Regional Environmental Office”.
The Grünheide plant, south of the German capital, can currently produce up to 500,000 vehicles a year. The Group is aiming to increase this capacity to one million, as well as its production of electric batteries, whose total storage capacity is set to rise from 50 to 100 gigawatt-hours per year. If Tesla’s plans are approved, the site would become Germany’s largest automotive plant, according to financial daily Handelsblatt, ahead of Volkswagen’s historic stronghold in Wolfsburg, which boasts a production capacity of 800,000 vehicles a year.
At present, however, the American electric vehicle manufacturer is still a long way from bringing its German plant, due to open in March 2022, up to full capacity. It only produces 5,000 units a week – which would make a total of around 260,000 a year. A public consultation on the expansion of the Gigafactory will be launched online from Wednesday, according to the authorities in Brandenburg, where the Tesla factory is located.
Citizens have two months to comment on the project. Expansion of the Gigafactory is to take place gradually, with three partial permit applications planned.
“We have to make sure that the effects of the plant’s construction and operation are compatible with the environment,” a spokeswoman for Brandenburg’s environment ministry told AFP.
Tesla plans to reach 22,500 employees at its Grünheide plant
The opening of the plant, which had been postponed several times, had aroused the mistrust of part of the local population, particularly because of its water consumption. Tesla now wants to “optimize” the process of recovering and purifying the water used, so as not to increase the quantities of fresh water required, a spokesman told AFP. Tesla is waging a price war in Europe, offering discounts on its models and gradually taking market share from incumbent German manufacturers.
Currently, “more than 10,000 employees” work at Grünheide, and the number of 22,500 employees is conceivable in the future”, Tesla said.
The powerful German trade union IG Metall has welcomed Tesla’s commitment to create new jobs, but is concerned about the “contradiction” between the announcements made and recent job cuts at the site, despite the pace to be maintained.