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Tesla evacuates its Germany plant. Musk blames 'eco-terrorists' for suspected arson

The Tesla Inc. Gigafactory in Grünheide, Germany, on Tuesday. The company halted production at its factory outside of Berlin and sent workers home after suspected arson at a nearby high-voltage pylon caused power failures throughout the region.
Krisztian Bocsi
/
Bloomberg via Getty Images
The Tesla Inc. Gigafactory in Grünheide, Germany, on Tuesday. The company halted production at its factory outside of Berlin and sent workers home after suspected arson at a nearby high-voltage pylon caused power failures throughout the region.

BERLIN — Production at Tesla's electric vehicle plant in Germany ground to a halt and workers were evacuated early Tuesday due to a power failure caused by suspected arson, drawing condemnation from Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Andre Thierig, who manages 12,500 staff at the Grünheide Gigafactory, near Berlin, said it would take several days before production would be back up and running. He said the outage would cost "in the high nine-digit euro range," meaning more than $100 million.

The incident at Tesla's first European factory poses another setback for the company, which is facing pressure from a German metalworkers union and global supply chain issues because of attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday afternoon, Thierig said, "We are very concerned about the safety of our employees," adding, though, that the outage "had not posed any danger to people or the environment."

Police say firefighters extinguished a blaze at a nearby high-voltage electricity pylon in the early hours of the morning and prevented it from spreading to the Gigafactory. The power outage also affected the surrounding area, stretching as far as some boroughs in Berlin.

Police also confirm they are investigating a confession posted online by the far-left "Volcano Group," which called for the "complete destruction of the Gigafactory" because the group alleged Tesla "eats up earth, resources, people and labor" and "spits out 6,000 SUVs, killer machines and monster trucks a week."

Musk wrote on X, formerly Twitter, "These are either the dumbest eco-terrorists on Earth or they're puppets of those who don't have good environmental goals." Using the German words for "extremely stupid," he added that "stopping production of electric vehicles, rather than fossil fuel vehicles, ist extrem dumm."

German Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser issued a statement condemning the alleged attack on critical energy infrastructure, which she said is "a serious crime that cannot be justified by anything."

Musk's decision to base his most modern Gigafactory just outside Berlin has challenged Germany's domestic automakers, which are struggling to keep up with the electric vehicle (EV) market.

Tesla has faced resistance since before it opened the Gigafactory's doors in Grünheide. Local residents are concerned about the plant's water usage and object to the automaker's latest plans to double the site's manufacturing capacity to a million electric vehicles a year.

Last week, environmental activists erected tents and built make-shift tree houses in the woodland Tesla plans to cut down in order to expand.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Esme Nicholson