Tesla manager overseeing construction of plant near Berlin said to depart

FRANKFURT — Tesla’s executive overseeing construction of the electric carmaker’s “gigafactory” near Berlin has left his position, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday.

Tesla declined to comment on whether Evan Horetsky, head of engineering, procurement and construction at the German plant, was still with the company. Horetsky could not be reached for comment.

According to Horetsky’s LinkedIn profile, he directed teams leading project design, construction and technical program management across Tesla’s global factories and energy products.

German broadcaster RBB was first to report the departure. RBB said there would be no delays in the factory’s planning application process as a result of Horetsky leaving.

The Berlin plant will be Tesla’s first in Europe. The automaker announced plans last November to build the Gigafactory in Gruenheide, outside Berlin, with plans to have the factory up and running by July  2021 to start building its electric crossover, the Model Y.

However, the company has been engaged in a lengthy environmental audit, a time-consuming process that is likely to mean construction will take much longer than its Shanghai Gigafactory, which went from greenfield site to building cars in just 11 months.

Horetsky hinted at pressures in a tweet dated Oct. 11.

“Credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming,” he said in the Tweet.

“…if he fails, at least (he) fails while daring greatly,” the tweet also said, attributing the quote to Theodore Roosevelt.

At the beginning of October, Tesla set aside three days of hearings to sound out locals and potential critics of the factory.

The consultation process took eight days just to lodge 414 complaints and observations, which will be reviewed by local planning authorities.

Some residents were concerned that the gigafactory, especially once it started building battery cells, would be a drain on local water resources and wanted assurances from Tesla that consumption would be limited.

Tesla, for its part has agreed to cut water consumption to 1.4 million cubic meters, down from 3.3 million cubic meters.

Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper reported that on Oct. 16, Tesla was forced to interrupt construction because of unpaid water bills. After receiving a reminder to pay, Tesla gave assurances the bills would be paid, but an IT error led to the payment not going through, Tagesspiegel reported. Tesla could not be reached for comment on the issue.

Authorities in Gruenheide and Brandenburg have so far only granted conditional approval for construction. Formal planning permission has not yet been granted.

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