‘Germany rocks’: Elon Musk makes first visit to Berlin Tesla construction site

Tesla founder Elon Musk paid his first visit to the new Giga factory on Thursday, praising the site and Deutschland.

'Germany rocks': Elon Musk makes first visit to Berlin Tesla construction site
Elon Musk signing autographs at the new factory site. Photo: DPA

The billionaire technology entrepreneur signed autographs and joked around as he visited the Tesla gigafactory in Grünheide, Brandenburg, just outside Berlin.

“We want to make this a real fun place to work,” he said, adding that construction at the site near the A10 was moving very quickly. 

“You can see how fast the progress is,” Musk added. The tech expert said he wanted to produce “cool cars” there and said it would become “the most important car factory in the world”.

READ ALSO: Tesla founder Elon Musk reveals new Giga Berlin factory design

Musk also joked with journalists, referring to a Twitter post from earlier this year where he brought up the idea of building a club at the factory.

“When do we get the rave cave here? It's going to be great,” said Musk. He also praised the new location. “Germany rocks,” he said.

Musk later tweeted to thank the Giga Berlin team for their “excellent work”

In response to a question from a reporter, Musk said on his next visit to Germany, he could imagine bringing his son, named “X Æ A-Xii”, with him.

“Maybe I'll come back in a few months and bring him with me,” he said.  Musk laughed when the name of his son was mentioned in the question. “Oh, you mean my child? That sounds like a password.” Musk and his partner, the musician Grimes, became parents in May.

From summer 2021, around 500,000 electric cars per year are to roll off the assembly line of the factory located in the otherwise sleepy district of Grünheide.

The factory is set to create around 12,000 jobs. The plans do not yet have full approval as the environmental permit from Brandenburg is still pending, Tesla is building at its own risk with provisional permits.

It comes as a new report showed how the German car market has been hit hard by the Covid pandemic. However, Tesla continued its growth in the Bundesrepublik, with more than five times as many cars sold in August as in the same month last year, and is the only brand to have increased sales in 2020.

READ ALSO: New Tesla factory near Berlin to create thousands of jobs

Musk on tour

Musk is currently on the road in Germany. On Tuesday, he visited the headquarters of the biotech company Curevac in Tübingen. The firm is in the advanced stages of developing a potential Covid-19 vaccine.

And on Wednesday he held talks with federal Economics Minister Peter Altmaier, representatives of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats faction in the Bundestag and Brandenburg's state premier Dietmar Woidke.

According to insider information, Musk spoke with Altmaier for about an hour. They reportedly discussed investments in the car industry.

Other topics were Musk's plans in the areas of space travel and self-driving cars. Curevac was also discussed.

“Musk and Altmaier agreed that Curevac, which is working on new vaccine concepts and is cooperating with Tesla, is one of the most innovative companies in the world,” the insider told the news agency Reuters.

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Norwegian battery start-up Freyr demands subsidies to complete factory

The Freyr battery start-up has halted construction of its Giga Arctic factory and demanded additional government subsidies, Norway's state broadcaster NRK has reported.

Norwegian battery start-up Freyr demands subsidies to complete factory

Jan Arve Haugan, the company’s operations director, told the broadcaster that the company would not order any more equipment until Norway’s government committed to further subsidies. 

“We are holding back further orders for prefabricated steel and concrete pending clarification on further progress,” he said. “We are keen to move forward, but we have to respect that there is a political process going on, and we have expectations that words will be put into action.” 

Freyr in April 2019 announced its plans to build the 17 billion kroner Giga Arctic in Mo i Rana, and has so far received 4 billion kroner in loans and loan guarantees from the Norwegian government. It has already started construction and hopes to complete the build by 2024-2025. 

Haugan said that the enormous subsidies for green industry in the Inflation Reduction Act voted through in the US in 2022 had changed the playing field for companies like Freyr, meaning Norway would need to increase the level of subsidies if the project was to be viable. 

Freyr in December announced plans for Giga America, a $1.3bn facility which it plans to build in Coweta, Georgia.   

“What the Americans have done, which is completely exceptional, is to provide very solid support for the renewable industry,” Haugen said. “This changes the framework conditions for a company like Freyr, and we have to take that into account.” 

Jan Christian Vestre, Norway’s industry minister, said that the government was looking at what actions to take to counter the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act, but said he was unwilling to get drawn into a subsidy battle with the US. 

“The government is working on how to upgrade our instruments and I hope that we will have further clarifications towards the summer,” he said.

“We are not going to imitate the Americans’ subsidy race. We have never competed in Norway to be the cheapest or most heavily subsidised. We have competed on competence, Norwegian labour, clean and affordable energy and being world champions in high productivity.”