The electric car maker Tesla is set to open its first European factory in the coming weeks. The company has thrown a party to unveil its new plant just outside Berlin – but it’s not without controversy.
Environmental concerns mean its construction has not yet been given final approval – but that hasn’t deterred Tesla founder Elon Musk. Nobody could accuse Elon Musk of being short on ambition, or showmanship, for that matter. And his plans for the new Tesla factory just outside Berlin are characteristically big.
A fairground atmosphere prevailed in the factory forecourt, drawing in curious visitors and Musk fans from Berlin and further afield. Some had queued since early in the morning, to get a sneak peek behind the scenes, temperatures close to freezing couldn’t dampen their enthusiasm. The factory aims to deliver up to half a million electric cars a year to the European market – Musk says the first cars should roll off the assembly line in just six weeks’ time.
But for many, Tesla is more than just a car maker – it is a complete concept for a hi-tech green future. Despite the hype, the project has encountered stiff opposition. The plant is nearly finished, but Tesla was never officially granted a construction permit. Some are angry that the factory lies in a protected water catchment. German authorities are still examining objections. “Our demand that the factory be dismantled has not changed. It sits in the middle of a water-protection area – a huge breach of law and a danger to the main water source for 70,000 people.
Elon Musk is not concerned about criticism. In halting German he thanked his adoring fans and urged them to join the party. Visionary pioneer? Savvy businessman? Or just another eccentric billionaire? Elon Musk has polarized the world with his unorthodox style and ambitious ventures. The new Tesla factory outside Berlin is no exception.