27 Jan 2020, 14:24
Benjamin Wehrmann

Tesla eyes German state aid for new gigafactory as Musk weighs in on environmental concerns

Handelsblatt / n-tv

American e-carmaker Tesla has applied for state subsidy payments in Germany to fund battery cell research and production in the host country of the company's planned new gigafactory, business daily Handelsblatt reports. Citing sources in the economy ministry (BMWi), the newspaper says subsidies could generally be paid out to foreign companies if these involve a joint European battery cell production programme. Tesla CEO Elon Musk last November surprised industry observers with an announcement to build the company's new gigafactory for e-car and battery production near Berlin. The BMWi is currently working on European battery projects with several other EU countries to unite companies from the battery and car industries in order to establish a battery production that allows Europe to become more independent of Asian battery suppliers.
Due to repeated protests at the planned new factory location in Grünheide near the German capital Berlin, Musk weighed in via Twitter to allay concerns over excessive water use by the factory, which is projected to roll out half a million vehicles per year. Musk said the factory would "absolutely be designed with sustainability and the environment in mind", arguing that numbers circulating on the water demand of the factory were exaggerated and at most represented a "rare peak usage case". He added that the forest, parts of which need to be cleared to make room for the Tesla factory, was not naturally grown but planted for cardboard production. "Giga Berlin will build sustainable energy vehicles using sustainable energy, so net environmental impact will be extremely positive!" Musk said.

Protests for and against the new factory have made waves in the small community on the outskirts of Berlin in recent weeks, where opponents have argued against the factory on environmental grounds while many have welcomed the massive investments and thousands of jobs planned by the US company. Leaders of a citizen initiative against the gigafactory said they would suspend protests due to possible infiltration by the nationalist right-wing party AfD, news website n-tv reported. Protest leaders said this would dilute the original aim of making sure the factory's environmental impact was kept in check.

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