Last year, Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk ridiculed the idea that “building a factory in Germany will lead to local water shortages”. However, the continuous decline in the groundwater levels at Tesla’s gigafactory in Brandenburg is affecting progress at the factory. Musk rashly pointed out last August that water is “everywhere” around Berlin. However, just six months later, the lack of water resources is one of the main reasons why Tesla’s German factory has not been put into production.
The Brandenburg region of Germany is suffering from falling water tables and prolonged drought due to climate change. Tesla’s need for water that is already deemed insufficient has sparked a legal battle, which is due to go to trial next week. The local government admits that once Tesla expands the factory, the local water supply will be insufficient. Clearly, the issue could further delay or even force Tesla to cancel its 5 billion euro ($5.7 billion) plant. This will be a big blow to Tesla’s global expansion plans.
Irina Engelhardt, head of the Department of Hydrogeology at the Technical University of Berlin, said: “The Tesla factory will definitely exacerbate the local water scarcity problem. As a result, not everyone may have enough water to drink”.
Tesla’s plant in Germany is critical to its expansion plan
Ensuring the production of the Brandenburg plant is critical to Tesla’s global ambitions. At present, Tesla urgently needs to establish a manufacturing base in Europe. It needs the base to meet the needs of the fast-growing electric vehicle market in the region.
While the company has built the factory at breakneck speed, it is still awaiting final approval from local authorities. The likes of Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, and Stellantis NV have expanded their own electric car production line.
Brandenburg Economy Minister, Joerg Steinbach said in an interview…”The current water supply is sufficient for the first phase of the factory. However, once Tesla expands the factory, we will need more water resources.”
Axel Bronstert, a professor of hydrology at the University of Potsdam, said the Tesla plant will roughly double water consumption in the Gruenheide region of Brandenburg. He claims that this is sufficient and the idea of meeting the needs of factories and residents is naive.
According to Tesla’s contract with the local government, Tesla’s Greenhead plant will receive 1.4 million cubic meters of water per year. This is enough to meet the water needs of a city of about 40,000 people.
In fact, no matter what the judge decides, the local waterworks will have to invest in new infrastructure. This includes the construction of a sewage treatment plant, to ensure adequate water supply. The local government acknowledges that such a large engineering project could take years.