Nissan Electric Vehicle Battery Plant in Tennessee

Construction is progressing on Nissan’s manufacturing facility in Smyrna, Tenn., which will produce lithium-ion batteries to power the Nissan LEAF zero-emission vehicle.

The all-electric Nissan LEAF will be produced at Nissan’s vehicle assembly facility in Smyrna beginning in 2012.

The foundation is laid, structure being erected and roof being installed on the vehicle battery manufacturing plant, which at 1.3 million square feet at full capacity will be one of the largest in the country. The company made this announcement Wednesday, Jan. 26.

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In a related development, Portugal received delivery of the first 10 electric vehicles in Europe from Nissan as recognition of the country’s work in electric mobility with the MOBI.E Programme.

The Prime Minister José Socrates is one of the ten recipients and will now travel exclusively by Electric Car for his official travels around the capital city. (Read: Portuguese Prime Minister to Use Electric Car)

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Also, the first new Mercedes-Benz F-CELL hydrogen-powered B-Class vehicles are now available to California residents, making emission-free driving a reality. (Read: Mercedes-Benz Delivers Zero-Emission Vehicle)

Among the other automakers, Toyota has announced that coinciding with the arrival of the RAV4 EV in 2012, it will launch, in key global markets, the Prius PHV (plug-in hybrid) and a small EV (Electric Vehicle) commuter vehicle. (Read: Toyota Plans to Produce New Electric Vehicles)

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Today, automobile vendors believe that sales of traditional vehicles will peak before 2020 and are looking to EVs as one of the next hot products. However, they will first have to address stringent consumer requirements about EV performance, recharging, and convenience.

This is revealed by tech company IBM with its new survey of consumer attitudes and a recent study of auto industry executives. (Read: Bumpy Roads Ahead for Electric Cars)

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The Nissan battery plant will be capable of producing 200,000 advanced-technology batteries annually. It is located adjacent to Nissan’s vehicle assembly plant, which is being retooled to accommodate production of Nissan LEAF and will be capable of producing 150,000 electric cars annually.

Combined, Nissan LEAF and battery production will create up to 1,300 U.S. manufacturing jobs when the plants are operating at full capacity.

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“Nissan is making significant strides to be one of the largest producers of electric vehicles and batteries in the United States,” said Carlos Tavares, chairman, Nissan Americas.

“We applaud President Obama’s goal of bringing 1 million electric vehicles to U.S. roads by 2015 and look forward to doing our part to ensure that many of those vehicles, and the batteries that power them, are built in the United States.”

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Combined, the construction of the battery plant and modification of the Smyrna manufacturing facility represent an investment of up to $1.7 billion, which initially is being supported by a U.S. Department of Energy loan for 80 percent of that investment, up to $1.4 billion.

The loan was issued as part of the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, a $25 billion program authorized by Congress as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

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The program is designed to accelerate the development of vehicles and technologies that increase U.S. energy independence, create cleaner means of transportation and stimulate the American economy.

Sales of the Nissan LEAF – claimed to be the world’s first all-electric, zero-emission vehicle available for the mass market – began in select markets in the United States in December 2010.

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It will be available nationwide in 2012, when production expands to the Tennessee facility. The Nissan LEAF initially is being produced in Oppama, Japan, and will be equipped with lithium-ion batteries being produced in Zama, Japan.

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The Renault-Nissan Alliance also will produce lithium-ion batteries in Cacia, Portugal, and Sunderland, UK, as well as in Renault’s Flins plant in France.

In North America, Nissan’s operations include automotive styling, engineering, consumer and corporate financing, sales and marketing, distribution and manufacturing.

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Rakesh Raman