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The delays at Giga Berlin are not unfamiliar territory for those who have been following the site’s development over the past 18 months. After being announced by Elon Musk in late 2019, Tesla started land preparations in January 2020, only to begin erecting the mainframe of the facility just a few months later. The site has been subjected to numerous short-term delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and some application holdups that needed preliminary approval before Tesla could move forward. However, recent reports from Germany suggest a more long-term delay is in store for Tesla because battery pack output won’t allow for vehicle production.
“I don’t have the faintest idea of how anyone can come up with a six-month delay. If nothing happens out of the ordinary, I still expect a start of production in late Summer or Early Autumn.”
-Jörg Steinbach, German Economic Minister
Many outlets have cited Automobilwoche’s story that says the German manufacturing plant won’t become operational until January 2022. The article indicates that company circles close to Elon Musk state the CEO is accepting the January 2022 date, even though just last week during the Q1 2021 Earnings Call, Musk said that limited production would occur at both Giga Berlin and Giga Texas this year.
“We’re building factories as quickly as we can. Both Texas and Berlin are progressing well, and we expect to have initial limited production from those factories this year and volume production from Texas and Berlin next year.”
Steinbach not buying Giga Berlin delay stories
Now that the report has been in the loop for a few days, plenty of people are finding out that Giga Berlin is apparently facing the six-month delay. One of the people disagreeing with those reports is Economic Minister Jörg Steinbach, a well-known politician who has been ecstatic regarding Tesla’s entry into the German economy. Steinbach told Teslarati earlier today that he doesn’t know where the six-month delay rumors are culminating from. Still, he expects Giga Berlin to face “approximately three months” of delay time.
“I don’t have the faintest idea of how anyone can come up with a six-month delay,” Steinbach said to Teslarati in an interview. “If nothing happens out of the ordinary, I still expect a start of production in late Summer or Early Autumn,” the Economic Minister added.
While Tesla has expressed some frustration with the German approval process, it is not unordinary for things to take several years to earn ultimate approval. Teslarati spoke to German engineer and Tesla enthusiast Alex Voigt last week, who indicated that many projects take 3-5 years to gain ultimate approval.
It appears that the basis of the delays seems to be blamed on a delay in 4680 cell production in Berlin, but the German factory’s battery line was not supposed to support the initial vehicle production efforts in the first place. Tesla’s Kato Road facility in Northern California sits just a stone’s throw away from the Fremont factory where Tesla has manufactured its cars since 2012. This is where Tesla is refining and developing the 4680 battery cell, which differs greatly from the batteries that Tesla currently uses in terms of power and performance, and it will support Tesla’s initial efforts in Berlin, according to Drew Baglino, the company’s Senior VP of Powertrain and Energy Engineering.
“We will incorporate 4680 design solutions into many applications in time across both energy and vehicle and we can use our pilot production facility in Fremont to support the new factory in Berlin as it ramps,” Baglino said during the Q3 2020 Earnings Call.
The delays at Giga Berlin could be confused with something as simple as an extended timeline, as Tesla’s addition of its 4680 battery cell manufacturing line to its application was submitted just last week. The additional portions of the application require more deliberation from regulators.
“If this additional investment now flows into the permit application, it goes without saying that the application documents must be revised, and then the approval authorities have the last word,” Dietmar Woidke, Brandenburg’s Prime Minister, said.
Tesla is still planning for Giga Berlin to begin production and deliveries this year, as it indicated in the most recent Update Letter that timing remains “on track for late 2021. Machinery for paint, stamping, castings, etc., continues to be moved into the building. In the meantime, we will continue to increase import volumes to Europe.”