Tesla ordered to halt work on German factory amid anger over chopping down trees

Key Points
  • Environmental activists are concerned by Tesla's plan to chop down trees to clear land for its new Gigafactory.
  • A German court said it would consider an appeal from local activists opposed to the forest clearance.
  • Tesla has addressed environmental concerns, saying it will "replant an area three times the factory plot."
The freight traffic center in the Gruenheide region east of Berlin. Tesla plans to build its new European Gigafactory in a huge forest nearby.
Patrick Pleul | picture alliance via Getty Images

Tesla has been ordered by a German court to temporarily halt preparations for its new European factory.

Environmental activists had raised concerns with the electric carmaker's plan to chop down trees to clear land for its new plant in the German state of Brandenburg.

The company does not yet have planning permission to build its new so-called Gigafactory, but the state environmental agency had given it a green light to clear 92 hectares of forest land.

But Tesla has now been dealt a blow after the higher administrative court of Berlin and Brandenburg said it would consider an appeal from local activist group Green League Brandenburg which is opposed to the forest clearance.

The court ordered Tesla to pause the felling, which has already commenced, as it would have been completed in just three days, according to a report from German state-owned broadcaster DW.

The court added that it would not discard the activist group's appeal against the cutting down of trees as "obviously hopeless from the outset," DW reported.

Tesla and the local government have until midday Tuesday to respond to the court ruling, Brandenburg Economy Minister Joerg Steinbach said on Twitter.


Tesla didn't comment directly on the court order when contacted by CNBC, but highlighted a web page detailing its commitment to "replant an area three times the factory plot, with mixed trees native to their habitat and the potential to become an old growth forest."

The company has purchased 300 hectares of land in the municipality of Gruenheide. The plan is to begin construction this year and start production of Tesla's Model Y SUVs at a rate of 10,000 cars a week by 2021. It's looking to hire 12,000 people for the German operation.

Elon Musk, Tesla's billionaire CEO, has praised Germany's engineering prowess and said it's "part of the reason" it is locating its plant there. He also said that Germany was picked over the U.K. due to Brexit uncertainty.

The country is home to two of the world's largest car manufacturing groups, Volkswagen and Daimler. Tesla's German facility will be its fourth Gigafactory, with others located in the Nevada, New York, and more recently Shanghai, China.