German town votes against Tesla factory expansion plans

German town votes against Tesla factory expansion plans

Locals in Grünheide have spurned Elon Musk’s plans to expand his “gigafactory” on the border of Berlin. The international company is looking to expand warehouse space and improve supply chains after Houthi rebel disruptions in the Red Sea halted its production, but locals in Brandenburg say the expansion poses too big a threat to clean drinking water.

Grünheide residents vote against Tesla expansion

Residents in the town of Grünheide, southeast of Berlin, have voted against Tesla’s plans to expand its nearby “gigafactory”.

The vote saw a high turnout of 76 percent, with 3.499 locals voting against the expansion and 1.882 voting in favour. However, the result is not legally binding since the vote was only a survey to “serve as an orientation” for local authorities, who organised the vote but can still choose to overrule the result. They will now meet with Tesla and discuss how to move forward.

The expansion plans include building a freight depot, storage facilities and childcare facilities for employees’ children. The existing Tesla site already covers 740 acres, and the new developments would require felling another 250 acres of pine forest which surrounds the plant.

Brandenburg locals fear drinking water contamination

While Brandenburg is abundant with lakes and Grünheide sits between two of them, the region is beset with a water shortage.

Tesla has committed to recycling as much of the 1,8 million cubic metres of water that it uses each year - enough to fill 700 Olympic-sized swimming pools - but a shortage isn’t the only concern. The fine texture of soil in the region means that it is easy for pollutants to drain deeper and contaminate drinking water. 

Since the factory opened in 2022, German magazine Stern has also reported on several worrying accidents at the factory, including a fire caused by a battery which resulted in contaminated water leaking into the soil and an illegal petrol station which “uncontrollably” leaked 250 litres of diesel.

Tesla maintains that its expansion plans amount to a “big win for the community”, while the Grünheide Citizens' Initiative, a local group which opposed the factory even before it opened, called the result a “historic victory for forest and water protection”.

Thumb image credit: Aerovista Luchtfotografie /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan



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