Tesla slams German bureaucracy, offers reform proposals

Tesla aims to produce 500 000 electric vehicles a year at its first European giga factory just outside of Berlin, which is slated to begin operations in July this year.

Electric carmaker Tesla has said it was irritated by administrative delays to the construction of its new giga factory outside Berlin, and put forward its own reform proposals.

“Tesla has experienced first-hand how obstacles in German authorisation procedures slow down industrial transformation,” the company wrote in a letter to Berlin’s highest administrative court seen by AFP.

The Tesla site near Berlin

“If these obstacles are not dealt with quickly, there is a high risk that Germany will miss its climate targets,” the company added, as it backed a legal case against the government by German environmentalist group DUH.

Arguing that its own experiences with German bureaucracy would be relevant to the case, Tesla said that Germany needed to modernise itself if it were to meet its target of reducing emissions to 55% of 1990 levels by 2030.

The new site still only has provisional construction permits, but Tesla has been authorised by local officials to begin work at its own risk, pending final authorisation. Permission has been repeatedly delayed by a series of claims lodged against the company by local environmental groups relating to issues such as water supply and the relocation of wildlife.

Yet Elon Musk’s company insisted in the letter that the Berlin giga factory should be seen as a project which helps fight climate change. The carmaker set out 10 reform proposals to improve German approval procedures, including more digitalisation and faster procedures for projects judged to be sustainable. It also backed the legal action by DUH, which is aiming to require the government to impose stricter measures in order to meet its climate goals.

DUH president Juergen Resch told AFP that Tesla’s intervention was a welcome surprise.

“This unusual step will bring ideas and impulses from outside into the discussion in Germany about our oversized bureaucracy,” he said.

Yet he also said that DUH did not agree with everything Tesla had put forward, and warned that NGOs and activist associations should remain involved. DUH is known in Germany for its partially successful campaign to ban diesel vehicles from city centres, and is not affiliated with environmental groups that have brought claims against the Tesla factory.