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16 Mar 2020, 14:27
Rachel Waldholz

Hearing on Tesla’s factory postponed because of coronavirus, Berlin senator orders Model 3

Handelsblatt / Der Spiegel

A public hearing on Tesla’s proposed e-car factory outside Berlin has been postponed indefinitely because of concerns over the coronavirus, the business daily Handelsblatt reports. Hundreds of people were expected at the hearing, originally scheduled for March 18, Handelsblatt reports, and the state of Brandenburg has received more than 360 comments from the public raising concerns on issues from water quality to traffic to nature conservation. The decision to postpone the hearing was criticised by the German Green Party. “In the digital age, it must be possible during a pandemic to still hold public hearings in video conference format,” Dieter Janecek, Green Party spokesperson for digital and industrial policy in the German parliament, told Handelsblatt. Tesla has already withdrawn American employees from Germany because of the spread of the coronavirus, Handelsblatt reports. But the company says that it will not change its schedule for construction of the plant, and Brandenburg's environment ministry said the postponement would also have no effect on the length of the approval process, Handelsblatt reports.

Meanwhile, Berlin’s state senator for transportation Regine Günther of the Green Party has announced plans to use a Tesla Model 3 as her official vehicle – an unusual move in a country where politicians usually choose models from German automakers, news magazine Der Spiegel reports. The decision is seen as a symbolic move highlighting the lack of electric vehicle options in the German market, Der Spiegel says. "What's important to me is a CO²-free car that is big enough to work in without being as oversized as an SUV," Günther said, according to Der Spiegel. "In addition, a Tesla is now also a contribution to local value creation."

Tesla announced plans in November to invest several billion euros in the factory in Grünheide, outside Berlin. The project, which will produce both electric cars and batteries, has been hailed as a potential gamechanger for the German e-car industry, but has also faced questions about its local environmental impact and potential use of government subsidies.

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