KEY POINTS

  • Tree felling for Giga Berlin will have to wait after a state court ordered a temporary halt to tree-clearing operations
  • Giga Berlin is expected to begin operations by July 2021
  • Tesla will invest $4.3 billion to build Giga Berlin, its first factory on the European continent

A German environmental group has succeeded in temporarily halting ground work for the new Gigafactory Berlin, or Giga Berlin, being built by Tesla Inc. on the outskirts of the German capital city.

The Higher Administrative Court Berlin-Brandenburg ordered Tesla to stop clearing forest land at Gruenheide, a town with a population of 8,600 persons southeast of Berlin, while awaiting to decide a complaint filed by the environmental activist group, "Gruene Liga Brandenburg" (Green League of Brandenburg). Berlin is located within the state of Brandenburg.

The court said it issued the order to stop the tree-felling because it would have only taken three more days for Tesla to complete the work. If it hadn't done so, the clearance would have been completed before judges made a final decision on the complaint.

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

The court's ruling was received after the Brandenburg State Office for Environment (the state environmental office) gave Tesla the go-ahead to clear 92 hectares of forest for Giga Berlin.

Also called Gigafactory 4, Giga Berlin is 35 km (20 miles) southeast of central Berlin on the Berlin–Wrocław railway, which forms the north border of the site. Projected cost for Giga Berlin comes to $4.3 billion (€4 billion).

When operational by July 2021, Giga Berlin will assemble the Tesla Model Y electric compact crossover utility vehicle (CUV) and the affordable Model 3 executive sedan. It will also manufacture batteries, battery packs, powertrains and seats.

Giga Berlin will do casting, stamping, painting, drivetrain assembly and final assembly of Model 3, Model Y and future models. The Model Y, however, will be the first Tesla EV assembled at the factory. Giga Berlin will have an annual capacity of 500,000 electric vehicles (EVs). Tesla CEO Elon Musk also announced the establishment of a new design and development center in nearby Berlin.

Tesla approved the contract to buy the land for $44 million, and signed the contract that Brandenburg notarized on January 29. The site, however, presents unique challenges for Tesla.

The area's water supply can only support the assembly of 250,000 Tesla EVs. The company will have to look for alternative water supplies later on. There are also potential problems with the local wildlife and proper wastewater disposal.

Tesla's Model 3 kept on display. Tesla's Model 3 electric cars on display. A probe report that appears to suggest a likely error with the Autopilot may have caused a crash in California in March 2018 is likely to worry users. Photo: AFP / STR