Fire at Tesla's German Factory Highlights Dismal Safety and Pollution Record

800 cubic meters of bundled cardboard and plastic burned early Monday morning.

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A new Tesla car is seen during the official opening of the new Tesla electric car manufacturing plant on March 22, 2022 near Gruenheide, Germany.
A new Tesla car is seen during the official opening of the new Tesla electric car manufacturing plant on March 22, 2022 near Gruenheide, Germany.
Photo: Christian Marquardt (Getty Images)

An unexplained fire broke out at Tesla’s Gigafactory Berlin-Brandenburg on the outskirts of German’s capitol city Monday morning in the second major incident to occur at the site since it opened in this spring.

Firefighters responded to the factory fire on the outskirts of German’s capitol city around 3:30 a.m. Monday morning. An estimated 800 cubic meters, or 28,251.7 cubic feet, of cardboard and plastic sent dark plumes and noxious gases into the early morning sky. By 7:45 a.m. firefighters had contained the blaze, but the remains were still smoking, according to Reuters.

The fire comes just five months after a 15,000-liter spill from the paint shop at the Giga Berlin factory. The chemicals were properly cleaned up and the leak addressed, but that didn’t quite sooth the jangled nerves of locals and environmental advocates. The factory almost didn’t happen due to concerns about the water system in the area, after all. It was also delayed over rare snakes and fish that were at risk of being impacted by construction.


It’s safe to say residents in the Berlin suburb have a right to be wary. Tesla’s factories don’t exactly have a sterling environmentally friendly reputation here in the U.S.. The company’s Freemont factory makes more cars than any other single American factory but has also repeatedly violated Environmental Protection Agency regulations for years. Tesla was hit with a paltry $275,000 fine. When the company is owned by the richest man of all time, that sort of fine is worst than laughable—it’s nothing. Here’s the infractions Tesla, a company valued at $277 a share as of this writing, was fine over, according to Gizmodo:

At least five paint shop fires happened at the Fremont factory between 2014 and 2018, including one that shut down Model 3 production for a week. In 2018, Tesla employees working in the paint shop told CNBC that poor maintenance, training, and cleaning were responsible for the fires, and that CEO Elon Musk and other high-level executives had encouraged them to keep working to make Model 3s rather than suspending production to implement larger fixes. Some paint shop employees expressed concerns about their health to CNBC.


Tesla even managed to cheat emissions testing with emissions-free vehicles. That is a remarkable amount of not caring about the environment from an EV manufacturer.

A huge fire like this, so close on the heels of a spill, will probably reinvigorate efforts to get the plant shut down just as Tesla is planning to boost production and significantly expand the factory outside of Berlin. Tesla says it built 1,000 cars a week at the plant over the summer, and hopes to reach 5,000 a week by the first quarter of 2023.