Tesla gets go-ahead to resume clearing forest for German factory

Karin Matussek and Stefan Nicola

Tesla Inc. has overcome a legal roadblock standing in the way of Elon Musk’s plan to build an electric-car factory in Germany.

A Berlin-Brandenburg court on Thursday ruled that Tesla can resume cutting down trees at a forest site in the small town of Gruenheide to make way for its first assembly plant in Europe. That puts the U.S. carmaker on track to start construction before the start of a crucial breeding period for local wildlife in March.

General view of the already partly cleared forest area on the future site oft he planned Tesla factory near Gruenheide, Germany, Monday, Feb. 17, 2020.

The court found that local authorities didn’t violate laws when they allowed work on the factory to start, throwing out a complaint by Gruene Liga Brandenburg, an environmental group that claimed Tesla and local authorities were sidestepping regulations to rush the project.

The decision is a boon to Tesla’s ambitious timetable of having the plant up and running by the middle of next year. Once it gets regulatory clearance, the factory could churn out as many as 500,000 cars a year, employ 12,000 people and pose a serious challenge to Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG and BMW AG. Musk recently tried to ease local concerns about water usage at the plant, which would border a nature reserve.

Local officials had warned that construction could be delayed by six to nine months if the forest isn’t cleared by mid-March. Tesla has already cut down two-thirds of the trees and should be able to fell the remainder in time.