Germans revolt over expansion of Tesla gigafactory

Germans revolt over expansion of Tesla gigafactory

Tesla Cellular Development in Fremont

German voters have revolted over Elon Musk’s plans to expand a vast Tesla “gigafactory”, dealing a setback to his efforts to accelerate production in Europe.

Residents of the Grünheide municipality in Brandenburg voted by 3,499 votes to 1,822 to oppose Tesla’s proposals, which included expanding the site by more than 50pc and clearing around 250 acres of forest.

While the vote was not binding, local officials said they would respect its results, meaning they will have to go back to the drawing board with Tesla and come up with new plans.

Tesla’s factory east of Berlin is its only plant in Europe, alongside facilities in California, Texas, China and a planned gigafactory in Mexico.

The company had hoped to expand the site to accommodate production of up to 1m cars a year, double its current capacity, and 100 gigawatts of battery production.

The site has been credited with boosting growth and employment in Brandenburg, which had suffered from the decline of the coal mining industry, amid a sluggish German economy.

But local residents have raised concerns about water and air quality in the area known for its forests and lakes.

The plan had been supported by local politicians, who said revising the plans would now be discussed next month. Tesla said it would “seek dialogue with all participants to decide on further steps” and said growing its site would be a “big win for the community”.

The company is likely to attempt to push revised plans to expand the facility.

The Bürgerinitiative Grünheide, a local group opposing the plans, called it “an important victory for forest and water protection in Grünheide, for all of Brandenburg and Berlin”.

Tesla choosing Berlin for its first European gigafactory was seen as a significant win for Germany, which has become notorious for lengthy delays to new factory projects.

After the site was picked in 2019, Mr Musk cited Brexit as one reason the company chose Germany over Britain, saying: “Brexit made it too risky to put a gigafactory in the UK.”

Mr Musk has subsequently said Tesla will “strongly consider” building a new plant in the UK as it ramps up global production, although he has also suggested that he will look at investments in France.

He said last year that the company would assess options for a new plant in late 2023. Mr Musk visited the UK and spoke with Rishi Sunak as part of the Government’s artificial intelligence safety summit in November.

The company is looking to expand production ahead of releasing a new, cheaper, car that Mr Musk has said should cost around $25,000 (£20,000).

Giga Berlin largely produces Tesla’s family-sized Model Y, its best selling vehicle.

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