Editor’s note: This article was initially published in September 2018. Now that Poland has a Tesla service center (and more coming), we’re rerunning it. The arguments seem as strong as ever that Poland is a nearly ideal place for a Tesla gigafactory. Furthermore, with Elon Musk’s recent comments about a need/plan for 2 terawatt-hours of Tesla battery production and Chanan Bos’s dive into how that could play out, this seemed like a good time to republish Jacek’s article. —Zach
Dear Elon Musk,
I have decided to write this short letter to you following rumours of a Tesla factory opening in Germany. As a Tesla fan, user and campaigner, I feel somehow obliged to tell you there are better places for your European presence (not saying Germany is a bad choice, but simply that there are better). The location I have in mind, naturally, is Poland. Here are just a few reasons behind it, in random order (or not):
Tesla’s Mission Statement says, “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” There is no better place to accelerate than Poland — coal land of Europe and slave to imports from Russia. Go to Germany and you will be one of many. Come to Poland and you will be a true leader. This part of the world needs Tesla as much as Nevada did, or even more.
Each time I read about Tesla in Germany, the argument of “the best engineers are German” comes up. Let alone the unfairness of the statement to all other industrial nations, it’s simply not true. Not to say that German engineers are bad — they’re not. Nonetheless, it is notable that Polish engineers are searched for and hired globally — from SpaceX in the USA to DeLaval in New Zealand. Engineers are one of our most successful export products, and they are so great not because we have an extraordinary education system (in fact, we are still in the Middle Ages in that respect) but because we have this famous ingenuity gene. Polish engineers rock. I wish I was one.
Serious arguments are given for the location of the factory being near your other European centres in Germany and the Netherlands. Let’s be honest, leaving our megalomanic approach behind, Europe is not that big. The distance from Prüm (just a random choice of a city in Germany) to Wrocław (another random choice of a city in Poland) is almost as close as going to LA from your Gigafactory. I could also tell you that Polish haulier companies have dominated road transport in Europe in the last couple of years, but you probably know it anyway.
Lately, I watched a video by Marques Brownlee that was shot on your factory floor. I am sorry to say that this American approach, tinted with a spice of your craziness, may not work in Germany. Simply put, too little “ordnung”, my friend. On the other hand, Poles are famous for their flexibility and easy-going approach. I, myself, have seen German companies in Poland which started with German “ordnung” and evolved into the Polish mix of creativity and adaptability, as we could not handle the original organization.
Another argument often used is that Germany is home to the largest car brands and so it is a perfect place for Tesla. Why would it be? They are already there and it’s crowded. The question to be asked is where they manufacture all parts for their wonderful Audi, Mercedes, or Opel cars. Each time you drive a German car, some, if not many, of its parts come from Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. Chances are, the whole car was assembled in one of these countries. We are the heart of the automotive business today.
Including Poland’s neighbors in the sociopolitical and economic calculus is not just courtesy. Together with Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia (which have made their own, more complex pitches), the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, we share common history of war, terror, and occupation. We all struggled in our own way to be where we are today — proud, mostly democratic and ambitious states. Tesla could take advantage of the best we all have to offer and help the region grow stronger in the face of today challenges.
Not long ago, you pointed to Alsace, saying the location would make both France and Germany happy. I’m sorry, Elon, it will not. Wherever you are — Germany or France — no matter how close to the border of one or the other, there will be grief on the other side. It may evolve into more than that and trade wars have been started over way smaller issues than a Tesla Gigafactory. Coming to Poland, I will say it again, will unite the region and boost Tesla’s dominance. I hate the argument of lower wages, honestly, but we also do work for less USD in Eastern Europe. Hard to ignore that fact in terms of Tesla profitability and future development.
Political support is absolutely indispensable when planning this scale of investment. As much as I can imagine, and actually know, the power of German politics, be assured no other European country loves America more than the current Polish government. You are our only true friend, they say, and we are prepared to go to great lengths to make our true friend happy, regardless of who is the president of the USA. And it’s true, it’s a fact, and it’s indisputable. Please be aware, though, that the clock is ticking as elections are due next year and you never know if the next government will share this warm feeling towards America. Make a decision today and benefit from ample incentives.
Obviously, everybody knows about Norwegian supremacy in EV adoption rates and declarations on future diesel bans, etc. One detail you may not have heard before is the Polish Electromobility Plan announced by our Prime Minister, which beats all other state level declarations — one million electric vehicles in Poland by 2025! The man goes even further, saying the cars should be EVs made in Poland. Now, if you couple that with the political affection I mentioned above, you will quickly see Tesla could enjoy a real paradise here. With your help, we will indeed have those million EVs by 2025 (or at least almost one million). Mostly Teslas?
Litttle has been known about it, but you already have a close connection with Poland and Polish universities. On 14th June 2017 you have been awarded Honoris Causa Doctor Degree by the University of Science and Technology in Cracow. Accident? I don’t think so. The university is doing some excellent research into electric drivetrains, space rockets, and batteries. They score top positions in many EV races around the world. A mention should also be made about Polish students who have dominated the University Rover Challenge in Utah, winning the competition a few times in recent years. If Mars is explored, it will be explored on Polish rovers. Did I mention that Polish engineers rock?
As for a particular location in Poland, choose as you like. I would personally aim for the Wrocław area, the city we have already started calling Polish Shenzhen. Home to countless global enterprises, including LG Chem’s huge battery plant (the largest EV battery factory in Europe), Wrocław and the surrounding area are pioneers in EV adoption in Poland. Suffice it to say, CleanTechnica Director Zachary Shahan lived here for 10 years before recently moving back to Florida and retains two homes here for life in future years. Another accident? I don’t think so.
Nearly finishing these loose thoughts, I would also make sure you know Poles have a long history of making breakthrough innovations and discoveries. From Kopernik, who “stopped the Sun and moved the Earth”, to smaller things like windshield wipers (bet you didn’t know that), we have contributed to global development a great deal. Feel free to utilize this potential in Tesla. There is still a lot to invent, develop and improve.
Dear Elon Musk, please make sure the location of your European Gigafactory will truly make a difference. It will not achieve that goal in the rich Western States of Germany or France, but it has all the makings of transforming the states of Eastern Europe and helping them catch up with the rest of Europe. Underdogs are always more determined and motivated. They will also show more appreciation. We are the underdogs in the Gigafactory race. Be unpredictable, Elon Musk, as you always have been.
Your Polish admirer and campaigner,
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