The Nissan Motor Company has marked two years of LEAF sales, its first-ever electric vehicle model. Through its first two years, Nissan has sold more than 46,000 LEAF models including 18,000 that have been delivered to U.S. customers. Coinciding with this anniversary, Nissan announced the start of its new lithium-ion automotive battery plant in Smyrna, Tenn, a plant designed to support increased production of the Nissan LEAF and future EV models.
Sustainable MobilitySaid Carlos Ghosn, president and chief executive officer of Nissan Motor Co., “Opening this U.S. plant is an important milestone in Nissan’s overarching strategy to foster sustainable mobility around the world.” Ghosn noted his company’s leadership in producing zero-emissions vehicles and said that the company is on the path to becoming the largest producer of EVs and batteries in the United States. Nissan’s competitors source batteries from third party providers.
Battery production involves several steps including an aging process that is necessary to ensure durability. The first group of batteries are ready to receive an initial charge and will be placed in Nissan LEAF models being built at adjoining assembly plant line in Tenn. Initial production capacity is 150,000 units with expansion to 200,000 units possible. Some 300 new jobs have been created and as many as 1,000 additional jobs are possible when the facility reaches peak operating capacity.
The cost to build the battery plant and to upgrade the Smyrna manufacturing plant to accommodate the LEAF was $1.7 billion. Nissan borrowed $1.4 billion from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the Advanced Technology Manufacturing Loan Program established by Congress in 2007. That program is the cornerstone for the Energy Independence and Security Act that was signed by President George W. Bush.
Nissan plans to extend its EV offerings including hybrids to 15 models by 2017 reports Automotive News. Additional pure electric models will be added to the product line up with Nissan’s premium Infiniti brand getting new vehicles in 2014 and 2016. A second Nissan EV model has also been planned.
The Nissan LEAF is an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety top safety pick. This model has scored “good” on tests for roof strength, rear crash protection, side impact and moderate overlap front crash tests. “Good” is the highest rating given by the IIHS. This model has also received a five-star rating from the NHTSA, the highest score offered by this federal administration.