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Tesla ordered to suspend work on its first European Gigafactory

Tesla has suffered a setback with the construction of its first European Gigafactory after a German court ordered the electric-car maker to suspend building work.

The order was delivered on Sunday, February 16, by the higher administrative court of the states of Berlin and Brandenburg while judges make a final decision on a complaint brought by local environmentalist group Gruene Liga Brandenburg (Green League of Brandenburg), Reuters reported.

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The clearance of trees from the 92-hectare site in Gruenheide in the eastern state of Brandenburg is only three days short of completion, with Tesla hoping to resume construction work shortly.

But in a note of caution, the court said it “should not be assumed that the motion seeking legal protection brought by the Green League lacks any chance of succeeding.”

According to Reuters, German lawmakers, who are keen to show overseas companies that the country is open for business, have been surprised by the level of protest against the construction of the Gigafactory, with activists claiming it could damage nearby wildlife and drain the area’s local water reserves.

After considering a number of locations for its first Gigafactory in Europe, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced in November 2019 that he wanted it to be built in Germany.

“Everyone knows that German engineering is outstanding, for sure — that’s part of the reason why we are locating our Gigafactory Europe in Germany,” Musk said in November 2019, adding, “We are also going to create an engineering and design center in Berlin because Berlin has some of the best art in the world.”

It’s expected that Tesla’s German factory, if it’s allowed to proceed, will produce Tesla’s Model 3 and the upcoming Model Y.

We’ve reached out to Tesla for comment on the stance taken by the environmental protesters and will update this piece when we hear back.

Tesla currently has three Gigafactory plants in operation — two in the U.S. and one in the Chinese megacity of Shanghai. Just days after the company celebrated the delivery of its first batch of Shanghai-assembled Model 3 vehicles to customers in China at the end of last year, the factory was forced to temporarily close its doors, together with other companies in the city, in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronoavirus, officially called Covid-19.

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