I’m thinking that it’s about time to regularly monitor the construction progress at Tesla’s Berlin Gigafactory, and to leverage the competitive spirit of the German psyche. We saw incredible construction speed at Gigafactory Shanghai (Giga Shanghai) once the structural build got going in spring 2019. Now Berlin is also just starting to put up walls and roofs. Will the Germans be able to match the high bar set by Shanghai?
Update: Tesla CEO Elon Musk has chimed in on this story:
Giga Berlin will come together at an impossible-seeming speed. The prefabricated construction method in Germany is extremely impressive.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 27, 2020
To recap the height of that bar set at the Tesla Gigafactory Shanghai Phase 1 buildout:
- 2019 March 20 — pillars and skeleton roof structures commenced at the Shanghai Gigafactory
- 2019 May 20 — main buildings mostly structurally complete
- 2019 September 23 — first Tesla Model 3 body-in-white pilot production/assembly commenced
- 2019 December 29 — first vehicle deliveries to customers
Setting time zero at roof structures first appearing, that’s around 2 months for structural integrity of main factory building, 6 months to first body-in-white, and just over 9 months to first cars being delivered.
We could argue over what’s the fair point to count as “start.” Over the past week or so, initial roof structures are starting to appear, though, and that’s at least a tangible stage of the construction and appears broadly comparable (in peripheral site work) to the equivalent stage at Shanghai.
We can see clearly the progress at Tesla’s Giga Berlin site in this great video by Tobias Lindh, who has given us permission to take screenshots of his videos:
To match pace with Tesla Giga Shanghai, the Tesla Berlin Grünheide site would have to see the main factory building structurally sound by end of September 2020, body-in-white pilot production by end of January 2021, and initial deliveries by end of April 2021. Is this possible for the Tesla team in Berlin?
Let’s not forget that Brandenburg/Germany does have more exacting environmental protection norms than Shanghai/China, more extensive health and safety norms, and more rules around employee working hours and rest periods. China has made a long march in these areas in recent years, but Germany is still tighter on them.
Tesla has also recently modified its plans at the site, actually expanding plans despite how some reported it. It is still planning on battery production, and seems to be adapting in real time to any challenges that emerge in the project. Check out Maarten’s recent report on Tesla Giga Berlin to get a sense of some of the challenges that this kind of project can present. I’d be surprised if some more small tweaks to site plans don’t occur before vehicle production starts.
Nevertheless, all excuses and cries of ceteris non paribus aside, all eyes will be on the progress at Tesla Giga Berlin. This is Germany’s big opportunity to show the country can still compete on speed of complex construction projects. It is also a big potential help for the economy if Germany’s traditional automakers struggle to transition into the electric era. More scrutiny will hopefully lead to more effort to put in a great performance.
Place your bets. Will German pride and famous efficiency and engineering allow them to match the incredible timeline set by Tesla Gigafactory Shanghai? Let us know in the comments.