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Nissan takes EV transformation to Europe with UK battery gigafactory plan

Japanese auto manufacturer Nissan has given the go-ahead for a new electric vehicle (EV) battery plant in the UK


Nissan and Rault have announced a major rejig of their car alliance.
Renault will retain a 15% stake in its Japanese partner but sell its Nissan. This pic shows Nissan's Leaf EV at the Beijing Auto Show in Sept 2020. File photo: Reuters.

$1.4bn commitment to largest carmaker in the UK will create batteries for more than 100,000 EVs per year

(AF) Japanese auto manufacturer Nissan has given the go-ahead for a new electric vehicle (EV) battery plant in the UK, from which it hopes to drive the low-emission transformation of its substantial British business.

The factory will be built in Sunderland, in the northeast of England, at a cost of £1 billion ($1.4bn) and create 6,200 jobs when operational. The move is part of Nissan’s plan to met the UK deadline of having all petrol and diesel cars off its roads by 2030.

“This is a landmark day for Nissan, our partners, the UK and the automotive industry as a whole,” said Nissan’s Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta, stood next to a line of newly-made Nissan vehicles awaiting their final inspections.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the post-Brexit investment at Nissan’s largest European factory as “a major vote of confidence in the UK”.

Nissan’s Chinese battery supplier Envision AESC will invest £450 million to build the battery plant that will be run on renewable energy and power up to 100,000 Nissan electric vehicles per year.

The facility, which will be built next to Nissan’s factory in Sunderland, was hailed as key to the UK’s transition away from high-polluting fossil fuel vehicles.

The news comes just days after Nissan’s French partner Renault unveiled plans for an Envision-owned battery factory in France, as global carmakers race to meet booming demand for greener transport and governments target net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The Japanese auto giant is to spend up to £423 million on Britain’s all-electric EV36Zero project, while Sunderland City Council will help to bring the total amount of investment up to £1bn.

Nissan, which had previously warned that a no-deal Brexit would threaten its 35-year-old Sunderland factory, said there will be 900 new Nissan jobs and 750 new Envision AESC jobs. The others would be created with the company’s supply chains.

‘Huge step’

“This is a huge step forward in our ambition to put the UK at the front of the global electric vehicle race,” said UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.

“The cars made in this plant, using batteries made just down the road at the UK’s first at scale gigafactory, will have a huge role to play as we transition away from petrol and diesel cars.”

Europe now has projects to build dozens of gigafactories that could potentially produce 16.7 million battery-electric vehicles by 2030, according to Transport & Environment, a non-governmental organisation.

Volvo and Swedish startup Northvolt announced last week they were joining forces to build a new battery factory in Europe.

Nissan’s woes

Nissan established Britain’s first electric vehicle and battery production at Sunderland in 2013 with its Leaf car.

The company has more recently faced a series of trials, from weak demand during the pandemic to the fallout from the arrest of former boss Carlos Ghosn, now an international fugitive after jumping bail and fleeing Japan.

It has delayed the planned summer launch of its flagship new electric Ariya model to this winter over the global chip shortage plaguing automakers.

Reporting by AFP

  • Asia Financial China Electric Vehicle Index: The Asia Financial China Electric Vehicle Index represents the electric vehicle ecosystem of the Chinese economy. It contains companies building electric vehicles as well as supply chain companies manufacturing parts and batteries for electric vehicles. The index is equally weighted and rebalanced every quarter. Bloomberg: {AFCEV}

Mark McCord

Mark McCord is a financial journalist with more than three decades experience writing and editing at global news wires including Bloomberg and AFP, as well as daily newspapers in Hong Kong, Sydney and Melbourne. He has covered some of the biggest breaking news events in recent years including the Enron scandal, the New York terrorist attacks and the Iraq War. He is based in the UK. You can tweet to Mark at @MarkMcC64371550.

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