Tesla CEO Elon Musk threw a rager at the new Berlin gigafactory on Saturday – complete with bright lights, techno music, a Ferris wheel, carousel, arcade and vegetarian food trucks – to announce the start of production at the disputed site that’s faced lawsuits by environmental groups.
“We’re aiming to start production in a few months, basically, November or December, and hopefully deliver our first cars in December,” said Musk at the event to the applause of thousands of fans. “But starting production is kind of the easy part. The hard part is reaching volume production.”
Volume production amounts to 5,000 or “hopefully 10,000” vehicles per week, said Musk. The factory is expected to manufacture Model Y vehicles, in addition to millions of battery cells. Tesla submitted plans to invest around $5.8 billion in a battery plant with 50 GWh capacity next to the 300-hectare site, and Musk promised volume production of battery cells by the end of the year. Volkswagen’s planned factory in Salzgitter is expected to produce 40 GWh capacity.
Construction on the Tesla gigafactory in Berlin-Brandenburg, which was granted two years ago by authorities under an exceptional procedure, is nearly complete, despite opposition from locals who are holding up final approval for the plant due to environmental concerns. Musk’s over-the-top event looks to be an attempt to win over the natives, an almost cartoonish move reminiscent of Stranger Things‘ Mayor Kline throwing an Independence Day festival to win votes and distract from the Russians he had leased land to in order to open yet another otherworldly portal.
In June, Finnish political party the Green League and the Brandenburg Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union filed suit for an immediate halt to the testing of machines in the paint shop, foundry and press shop at the factory over concerns of chemical leaks and other environmental harm. Last year, work at the site was temporarily suspended when NGOs requested an injunction to protect nearby natural habitat of certain endangered lizards and snakes.
Locals filed more than 800 complaints that are being discussed via an online residents’ consultation process, which is due to close on October 14, according to Bloomberg. Only then will environmental authorities make a final decision on approval.
Despite pushback, Tesla has a 95% chance of gaining factory approval, according to Brandenburg’s economy minister. The Tesla factory, which is currently hiring widely throughout Europe, is in favor with many political parties in the country who see it as a major economic boost for eastern Germany.
Musk defended the factory against critics saying it used “relatively little” water and that battery production would be “sustainable.”