Nissan has announced plans for a major new investment in its manufacturing facility in Sunderland, in northeast England, which will see the former RAF base become "a world-first EV manufacturing ecosystem."
Major investment in the Sunderland plant
Nissan is investing more than €1 billion in the plant, which will see both batteries and a new electric car lineup built there. Sunderland already builds batteries for the Nissan Leaf (as well as the Leaf itself), and it's the home plant of the hugely successful Qashqai.
Nissan calls it its EV36Zero plan, and it's working with its battery production partner Envision AESC on the project. Some 6,200 jobs are expected to be created at the facility, and in the wider area.
Currently, Nissan makes 1.9GWh of batteries every year at Sunderland, but the investment will see that rise to 35GWh per year when it's fully up and running. That will be, Nissan and Envision expect, in 2035, but it should hit 25GWH annually by 20205.
These will be new 'Gen5' batteries, which will be more energy-dense (more range, in other words) and will be cheaper to make. All of that battery production itself uses considerable electrical energy, so Nissan and Envision will also build a 1-megawatt battery storage facility, using recycled car batteries, which can help to provide the plant with extra power at times of peak demand, reducing the overall load on mains electricity.
On top of that, Sunderland City Council has committed, alongside Nissan, to create a 'microgrid' of entirely renewable electricity production that will feed power to the car and battery factories, and which is expected to save around 55,000 tonnes of carbon every year when it's up and running.
New electric crossover model
The plan also includes the production of a new all-electric SUV, which Nissan claims: "promises next-generation vehicle styling, efficiency and battery technology, making the switch to electric driving even more accessible." The sketch image shows styling very similar to that of the forthcoming Nissan Ariya, which will use the Renault-Nissan group's CMF-EV platform, and has a range of more than 500km on one charge. Quite where and how this new electric model will fit into the Nissan range, relative to the Ariya and the Qashqai remains to be seen. It has been suggested that, with the current hatchback Leaf due to go out of production in 2024, the new model could be a crossover-flavoured replacement - much as partner Renault is replacing the hatchback Megane with an all-electric crossover Megane E-Tech.
Nissan President and Chief Executive Officer, Makoto Uchida said: "This project comes as part of Nissan's pioneering efforts to achieve carbon neutrality throughout the entire lifecycle of our products. Our comprehensive approach includes not only the development and production of EVs, but also the use of on-board batteries as energy storage and their reuse for secondary purposes. Our announcement today comes out of lengthy discussions held within our teams, and will greatly accelerate our efforts in Europe to achieve carbon neutrality. The experience and know-how gained through the project announced today will be shared globally, enhancing Nissan's global competitiveness. Nissan will continue to leverage its strengths in electrification to become a company that continues to provide value to its customers and society."
Nissan's Chief Operating Officer, Ashwani Gupta, said: "This is a landmark day for Nissan, our partners, the UK and the automotive industry as a whole. Nissan EV36Zero will transform the idea of what is possible for our industry and set a roadmap for the future for all. We reached a new frontier with the Nissan Leaf, the world's first mass-market all-electric vehicle. Now, with our partners, Nissan will pioneer the next phase of the automotive industry as we accelerate towards full electrification and carbon neutrality."
Closed loop recycling'
Lei Zhang, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Envision Group, said: "Envision Group's mission is to be the net zero technology partner of choice for global enterprises, governments, and cities. We are therefore delighted to be a part of EV36Zero with Nissan and Sunderland City Council. As part of this, Envision AESC will invest STG£450m in a new, cutting-edge, low-carbon gigafactory in Sunderland creating 700 new jobs. This commitment builds on our long-term partnership with Nissan to achieve our global ambition to make high performance, longer range batteries for EVs affordable and accessible for millions more motorists. Growth in demand could bring future investment of up to STG£1.8bn, additional capacity of 25GWh and 4,500 jobs by 2030. This will put the North East at the heart of a new EV hub in the UK, collaborating on R&D around the whole battery lifecycle, from storage, to second life use, V2G smart charging and closed loop recycling."
Rather appropriately, the announcement was made on the 35 anniversary of Nissan's first commitment to the Sunderland area, which brought much-needed employment to a city facing the deaths of its coal-mining and ship-building industries.