Tesla Gigafactory halted over German forest clearance complaint

Tesla's plan to build a new Gigafactory for electric vehicle (EV) production in Germany has been temporarily halted by a court order concerning the clearance of more than 90 hectares of forest in Brandenburg.

Tesla Gigafactory halted over German forest clearance complaint


Germany’s environment ministry had given Tesla permission to begin work on its first European Gigafactory, despite the carmaker not receiving planning permission to do so. In response, local environmental group the Grüne Liga Brandenburg (Green League of Brandenburg), filed a court complaint about tree-felling on the site.

The state of Brandenburg sold a 300-hectare site in Grünheide for around £34m (€41m) and Tesla started cutting trees across one-third of the site last Thursday.

The Higher Administrative Court of Berlin-Brandenburg (OVG) issued a statement on Saturday (15 February) saying it had to stop the site clearance as it would only take three more days to complete the work. As such, tree-felling on location has been halted until judges make a final decision on the Green League’s complaint. Complaints can be filed against the construction up to March 5, at which point a permit will be reviewed.

Tesla wants to start EV production in Brandenburg next year, with plans in place to produce 150,000 vehicles annually. Production could increase to up to 500,000 vehicles.

Tesla’s other two Gigafactories are located in the US and Shanghai, China. It took just 10 months to get the latter factory up and running, with Tesla’s Model 3 vehicles being delivered from the site just a few months later.

Tesla had announced plans to reduce the purchase price of its Model 3 car to £26,500, which is currently more than £37,700, by shutting showrooms and making purchasing online only. The company has since U-turned on this decision.

The vehicle forms the third stage of Tesla’s strategy to make EVs a mainstream proposition for the average car buyer. A four-step plan will see Tesla build on the success of its EV portfolio by extending the electrification process to heavy-duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport.

Tesla has estimated that its EV stock has collectively travelled around 10 billion miles, as of April 2019. Were this distance covered by petrol or diesel cars, the company claims that an additional four million tonnes of CO2 would have been emitted.

That figure was listed in the company’s first sustainability report. The report also documents Tesla’s journey as a solar solutions provider. It reveals that the company’s Energy arm had installed around 3.5GW of solar installations globally, as of February 2019, with these arrays having generated more than 13TWh of clean power within the same timeframe. Tesla claims this output is the equivalent of that used to supply all of the residential electricity used across Connecticut for a year.

Matt Mace

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