Power failure shuts down Tesla factory in Germany / Plant evacuated

Production at the Tesla factory in Grünheide, Germany, has come to a standstill. According to media reports, an arson attack on an electricity infrastructure around ten kilometres away from the Tesla site has caused a power outage. There is now a letter claiming responsibility from a left-wing extremist group.

Image: Tesla

+++ This article has been updated +++

The German publication Spiegel and others have reported on the halted production lines at the Tesla plant in Brandenburg. A company spokesperson told the magazine that the reason was a power failure. According to the news agency dpa, the factory was also evacuated. Tesla only stated that measures had been taken to secure the production facilities and that, after consultation with the electricity provider, production was not expected to restart quickly.

According to media reports, the background to the power outage could be an arson attack. “We are investigating the initial suspicion that it was deliberate arson,” a police spokesperson also told RBB. Around midday, RBB updated that a letter of confession from the left-wing extremist ‘Vulkan Group’ had emerged. The letter is currently being examined by the police for authenticity.

Production suspended for the rest of the week

“We sabotaged Tesla today,” the station quotes from the letter. “With our sabotage, we aimed for the biggest possible blackout of the Gigafactory.” Power lines were “flambéed” because “damage to cable joints is often lengthy and expensive to repair.” The fire on the electricity mast was to be large and high “to weaken the steel structure and cause the mast to become unstable.” It is why car tyres had also been piled up.

In the afternoon, it became clear that Tesla’s Gigafactory will not be up and running again any time soon. It will take a few days to repair the power infrastructure once authorities have given the go-ahead. Tesla’s German management announced at a press conference that production would be suspended for the rest of this week – at least. The shut down could mean a loss for Tesla “in the high nine-digit range.” Around 6,000 cars currently roll off the production line in Grünheide every week. If one only uses the base price for a Model Y of around 45,000 euros as a benchmark, Tesla could lose 270 million euros in sales as a result of the attack. The disruption to the supply chain will also result in additional costs.

Woidke: “Serious attack on critical infrastructure”

According to Brandenburg’s Minister President Dietmar Woidke (SPD), this is “obviously a serious attack on our critical infrastructure with consequences for thousands of people and many small and large businesses in our state.” Attacks on critical infrastructure are “a form of terrorism.”

The information on the location of the fire has also been updated. Initially reports said that the fire had broken out at the Steinfurt substation this morning. It now seems that an overhead line mast in a field between Gosen-Neu Zittau and Steinfurt may have caught on fire. The fire brigade was alerted at around 5.15 am. The fire caused a power outage in the entire surrounding area and in the south of Berlin.

According to media reports, the emergency services discovered an activist tent next to the site. Around 80 to 100 environmental activists were reported to have been occupying part of the state forest in Brandenburg near the Tesla plant since Thursday. It will be cleared in the event of an expansion of the plant area. It has been clear for at least two weeks that Tesla is facing resistance to plans to expand its factory. In mid-February, the citizens of Grünheide rejected an expansion of the factory site by a majority in a referendum.

In addition to the existing 300-hectare factory site, Tesla wants to build a freight depot, warehouses and a company kindergarten on an additional 170 hectares. The plans have been public since 2022. The public consultation focussed on these new areas, but Tesla also wants to expand the plant on the existing factory site. However, the latter was explicitly not put to the vote.

In February, it was still unclear exactly what would happen after the vote. According to media reports, the vote is not legally binding. Still, Grünheide’s mayor, Arne Christiani, said after the vote that the rejected development plan would no longer be presented to the municipal representatives in its current form. The city representatives next meet on 14 March and 16 May. In addition, the finance committee of the state parliament would have to approve the sale of the land by Brandenburg’s state forestry company.

As reported, Tesla wants to double its production capacity in Grünheide from 500,000 units to one million EVs per year and, according to Brandenburg’s Ministry of the Environment, is also planning to “increase battery storage production capacity from the current 50 to 100 gigawatt-hours per year in the future.” The latter also includes the production of battery cells.

spiegel.de, handelsblatt.com, bz-berlin.de, maz-online.de (all in German), rbb24.de (update, in German)


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