GRUENHEIDE, Germany -- Next Thursday, July 1, was supposed to be a day of celebration for Tesla: the opening of its self-styled "Gigafactory" in the tranquil German municipality of Gruenheide, just outside of Berlin.
But because of fierce environmental resistance, red tape and planning tweaks it is unclear when the first vehicles will roll off the production line of the electric carmaker's first European factory.
Tesla has already pushed back the expected opening to late 2021. Yet the environmental agency in Brandenburg, the state where the 5.8 billion euro ($6.9 billion) plant is being built, has still not given final approval -- meaning a further delay cannot be ruled out, even into 2022.
What's the problem?
Tesla and its billionaire boss Elon Musk unveiled plans in late 2019 to build the factory.
But the site partly overlaps a drinking water protection zone and borders on a nature reserve, which has drawn heavy opposition from local residents and environmental groups.
Last year, Tesla had to suspend clearing of a forest at the site after environmentalists from local group Nabu highlighted the risk posed to a rare local snake species whose winter slumber could be disturbed by tree-cutting activity.
The snakes had to be rescued before Tesla could proceed but there have been numerous other efforts to stop work at the site on environmental grounds.
"Thousands of (acres) of forest will be cleared to create the needed infrastructure and housing space," said Manuela Hoyer, who lives about six miles from the site and is a member of a local campaign opposed to it. "To build such a plant in a protected drinking water area is actually a crime against the environment."
Her comments reflects a broader trend in Germany that has also seen renewable projects, such as wind farms, coming under fire from residents that fear the impact on the local habitat.
Is that really it?
Bureaucracy has been a headache for Tesla, too, pitting the company's hands-on approach against Germany's infamous red tape.
So far, Tesla is working based on preliminary construction permits, with large factory halls and structures already built on the 740 acres of land it bought for about $52 million. But only when Brandenburg's State Environmental Agency provides the final permit can the plant be opened.