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Tesla gets green light to expand German plant as protesters win revision to plans

Demonstrators walk past the Tesla factory in Gruenheide, Germany, May 11, 2024, at the end of their protest.
Demonstrators walk past the Tesla factory in Gruenheide, Germany, May 11, 2024, at the end of their protest. Copyright Patrick Pleul/dpa/AP
Copyright Patrick Pleul/dpa/AP
By Eleanor Butler with AP
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Approval to expand its first European plant was given after Tesla revised its original proposals following anger at the proposed felling of more than 100 hectares of trees.


Local councillors at the Grünheide municipality just outside Berlin gave Tesla the green light on Thursday evening to expand its local plant. According to German news agency dpa, the vote was split 11-6, with two abstentions.

Expansion of the factory, which opened in 2022, is part of a strategy to double the site's capacity to 100 gigawatt hours of battery production and one million cars per year. Tesla is aiming to add more logistical spaces to the factory, including a train station.

The proposal allows for the felling of 47 hectares of trees, less than the initial proposal which wanted to fell 100 hectares of trees.  

A referendum was held in the municipality in February and 65% of respondents voted against the original blueprints.

Although the vote was non-binding, local councillors asked Tesla to return to the drawing board.

Environmental activists have been protesting in a forest near the plant since the plans were initially put forward in February. They fear the plant's intensive use of water would endanger the region's supply.

Earlier this month, protesters clashed with police when some protestors tried to break into Tesla's factory. A suspected arson attack near the plant left it without power in March.

Even after Tesla revised its proposals, some residents are still angry with the council's decision.

"Stop Tesla," a group backing the protest, said in a statement on Friday: "We must stay to protect the water and the forest as long as our protection is needed."

The approval of Tesla's expansion is nonetheless a victory for some officials who have highlighted the economic benefits it will bring.

Brandenburg's regional economy minister, Jörg Steinbach, described it as "a strong signal for the future development of Grünheide and Tesla."

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