Tesla gets local council go-ahead for German factory expansion

GRUENHEIDE, Germany (Reuters) – Tesla got the go-ahead for an expansion of its German factory in Gruenheide near Berlin from the local council on Thursday despite protests against the U.S. electric vehicle maker’s plans.

The green light from the Gruenheide council is just the first in a series of hurdles Tesla needs to clear before being able to start its expansion to add logistical spaces including a train station. The expansion must also be approved by local environmental authorities.

The expansion is part of the U.S. EV maker’s plans to double the site’s capacity to 100 gigawatt hours of battery production and 1 million cars per year, setting it up to dominate Europe’s EV market.

Environmentalists and local groups fear expanding the plant would endanger the region’s water supply, as it is located in a drinking water protection area.

Protesters against the expansion clashed with police earlier this month as some of them attempted to storm the facility. A suspected arson attack nearby left the plant without power in March.

In front of the hall where the Gruenheide council members met on Thursday under police protection, demonstrators held up posters reading “People over Profit” or “Turn off the tap on Tesla”.

Tesla already had to revise its expansion plans after Gruenheide citizens voted against them in February – and is now set to cut down just 47 hectares of forest, half the originally planned area.

(Reporting by Christina Amann; Additional Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Susan Fenton)