FRANKFURT: Tesla said Wednesday it will have to rethink expansion plans for its German factory, the electric carmaker’s only European plant, after local residents opposed them in a vote.

The vote, which was not legally binding, related to a project to expand the Gruenheide site, south of Berlin, by 170 hectares (420 acres), from a current size of 300 hectares.

The US company hopes to increase production at the plant to up to one million vehicles annually as well as ramp up the number of employees.

But 3,499 people voted against the expansion, with 1,882 in favour, in a vote Tuesday that saw about 76 percent of local residents cast ballots.

Opponents’ concerns include deforestation required for the expansion, the plant’s high water consumption, and an increase in road traffic in the area.

“We recognise that the citizens of Gruenheide have concerns in connection with the planned expansion of the site,“ said Tesla, which is owned by Elon Musk, in a statement following the vote.

Now it was up to local authorities to decide on the land use planning procedures, it said.

“We will coordinate further steps together with all those involved,“ Tesla said, adding it was aiming to shift much lorry traffic to rail and ensure infrastructure around the plant was developed quickly.

Local mayor Arne Christiani said authorities had failed to make it clear to voters that “other important infrastructure projects”, such as a major new road and an upgrade of the rail station, were part of the development plans.

The Gruenheide factory opened in 2022 after an arduous two-year approval and construction process dogged by administrative and legal obstacles. -AFP

Clickable Image
Clickable Image
Clickable Image