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Nissan confirm electric LEAF production heading to UK

Japanese car maker Nissan has underlined its commitment to electric cars AND the UK by announcing that its new zero emission production car, the LEAF, will be made at its plant in Sunderland, UK.

The company claim that the LEAF will be the world’s first affordable zero emission car, while the advanced lithium-ion battery used at the heart of the vehicle will also be produced in the North East of England. The facility, which will be located at Sunderland, will have a production capacity of 60,000 units a year and will start manufacturing batteries in 2012 for both Nissan and its Alliance partner Renault.

Nissan Leaf image 1

The news represents a total investment of more than £420m and is expected to maintain about 2,250 jobs at Nissan and across the UK supply chain. The investment will be supported by a £20.7 million Grant for Business Investment (GBI) from the UK Government and a proposed finance package from the European Investment Bank of up to £200 million.

The UK’s Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said: “This investment is a fantastic vote of confidence in the Sunderland plant and its excellent workforce. The automotive sector is of key importance to the UK. It supports R&D, technological innovation, skills and a supply chain that’s a mainstay of the wider manufacturing sector.

“Today’s news from Nissan, with support from government, shows that by working together we can achieve our aim of making the UK a world-leader in ultra-low carbon vehicles.”

Andy Palmer, senior vice president at Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., and responsible for the company's global EV strategy, said: “The world is at the dawn of a new era in automotive transport. Nissan LEAF, which will go on sale later this year, is a five-seater hatchback that offers the same space, practicality and performance of a similar car in its class – minus the tailpipe emissions."

“Thanks to the UK’s firm commitment to a low carbon future in terms of infrastructure, customer incentives and educational programmes, Nissan LEAF will be built at Sunderland, making the UK the third country in the world to produce this revolutionary car.”

A total of three Nissan plants will be used to build the LEAF. Production will begin in native Japan at Oppama late in 2010, this will be followed in 2012 with production in Smyrna, Tennessee, USA with the Sunderland plant coming online in early 2013. Initial annual production at Sunderland is expected to be around 50,000 units.

Work to integrate Nissan LEAF into Sunderland’s manufacturing process will begin in 2012. The car will be launched on the plant’s ‘Number 2’ production line alongside the recently unveiled Juke compact crossover car, which enters production in August 2010.

Last December, Nissan and Regional Development Agency One North East signed a definitive agreement on zero emission mobility. The agreement includes the development of a regional network of charging points, supply of Nissan LEAF to the region from early 2011 and a range of incentives for early adopters of EVs, such as a period of free charging and use of dedicated EV lanes.

The news is further proof that the UK is at the heart of electric vehicle production.

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Richard Lawton

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