Elon Musk and Chancellor Scholz christen the US company’s first European hub, where Model Y and batteries will be produced
Tesla has officially started operations in Europe, inaugurating the Gigafactory in Gruenheide, a plant 40 km from Berlin. “The big day is here, for another step towards a sustainable future,” said Elon Musk during one of his short speeches given on the day. The South African entrepreneur, former founder of PayPal and very active with SpaceX, Neuralink and The Boring Company in addition to Tesla, arrived in Germany in his personal plane and was welcomed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who praised the initiative of the most popular electric car company, described as the present and future of the automotive industry.
The facility combines several production units on more than 300 hectares for a total surface area inside the factory of 227,000 square metres. Its debut day saw the delivery of the first 30 cars, with a specially designed catwalk enriched by Musk’s dancing, as had already happened during the christening of the Shanghai plant, in front of the dumb faces of the Chinese public. The first European orders, however, were fulfilled thanks to the Chinese Gigafactory, with an increase in costs for Tesla due to the semiconductor crisis and problems in the supply chain, but also and above all due to the successive postponements for the opening of the German plant.
Authorisation from the authorities of the state of Brandenburg arrived only after a series of measures and commitments made by Tesla regarding the plant’s environmental impact, including the reduced use of solvents for paint and the creation of a forest to replace the pine plantation around the factory. Even on the day of the inauguration, there was no shortage of twists and turns and protests by environmental activists who, as well as displaying banners on the risks of excessive water consumption, climbed down from a motorway sign near the factory, blocking traffic at the end of the opening ceremony.
Tesla’s fifth Gigafactory is the result of an investment of more than €5 billion and is the largest electric car factory in Europe. It will produce the Model Y in the MIG version (which stands for Made in Germany) that will supply all European markets and for which a minimum of €63,990 is needed. Its strengths include a range of 514 km, a top speed of 250 km/h and acceleration to 100 km/h in 3.7 seconds. Tesla’s short-term goal is to deliver the next cars by April, with production by the end of the year expected to be around 54,000 units according to JP Morgan, rising to 280,000 cars in 2023, up to 500,000 cars in 2025. The Berlin plant currently employs just over 3,500 people, a figure that will rise to 12,000 in two years’ time when the plant is at full capacity. Battery cells with a total annual capacity of 50 gigawatt hours of power will also be built here.
While we wait to find out whether the various estimates will be met, the certainty is that the arrival of Tesla represents a turning point for the European automotive industry, because it gives a strong boost to the sector and puts pressure on the other big companies, starting with Volkswagen. The German company currently holds 25% of the European electric car market (95,000 electric car orders in 2021 for the German company), ahead of Tesla’s 13%, but if the horizons are extended to the rest of the world, the roles are reversed. This is why Volkswagen has invested €2 billion to expand the Wolfsburg plant and build six factories dedicated to battery production.