Production at a Tesla plant near Berlin is halted after a power outage. Officials suspect arson

BERLIN — Production at Tesla’s electric vehicle plant near Berlin came to a standstill and workers were evacuated on Tuesday after a power outage that officials suspect was caused by arson.

According to the Interior Ministry in the state of Brandenburg where the plant is located, unknown perpetrators are suspected of deliberately setting fire to a high-voltage transmission line.

The early morning fire caused the power supply to fail to the surrounding towns, including Grünheide, where the Tesla factory is located.

Brandenburg’s Interior Minister Michael Stübgen said initial findings indicate the fire was intentional, according to the German news agency dpa.

“If the initial findings are confirmed, it will be a perfidious attack on our electricity infrastructure,” Stübgen said.

The power outage at the Tesla factory comes as environmental activists have been staging a protest in a forest near the plant against plans by Tesla to expand.

The “Stop Tesla” protest has seen dozens of activists put up tents and built treehouses, some of them several meters above the ground — a tactic used in previous German environmental protests.

Tesla opened the factory in Grünheide in March 2022 — launching a challenge to German automakers on their home turf.

The company now wants to expand the facility to add a freight depot, warehouses and a company kindergarten. Those plans would entail felling more than 100 hectares (247 acres) of forest.

That has drawn opposition from environmentalists and some other local groups, who also worry about possible effects on the area’s water supply. In a nonbinding vote in mid-February, residents of the municipality rejected Tesla’s plans, which still need approval by local authorities.

About 12,500 people work at the plant.

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