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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Nissan lithium ion battery plant in Portugal on track for 2012 production

Japanese automaker Nissan is in the process of constructing an advanced lithium-ion battery plant in Cacia, Portugal in alliance with European automaker Renault that is on track to start production late next year.

Nissan spokesperson Mia Nielsen told NewNet that Nissan’s longstanding plan for its electric vehicle roll-out has always been to produce its own lithium ion batteries. The upcoming plant is expected to provide batteries for the Leaf, although Nielson said Nissan has not yet fully settled on which electric vehicles it will support.

She said, ‘We expect to start production at the end of 2012, which will produce lithium ion batteries for Renault and Nissan. We haven’t specified which cars they will go into, but will be producing a whole range of EV cars in the future.

‘From the start we’ve always wanted to manufacture the batteries and own that part of the business. We wanted this to be part of our business so we have more control over quality and supply.’

The lithium ion battery plant, which was built alongside Renault’s existing gearbox plant north of Lisbon, involved a €156m investment and is expected to create 200 jobs.

The Cacia plant will be one of three facilities in Europe supplying batteries to electric vehicles produced by the Nissan-Renault alliance. Nissan started producing lithium ion batteries through a joint venture with Japanese manufacturer NEC in advance of launching the Leaf family electric car late last year.

Last April, Nissan began construction of a battery plant in the UK, which is expected to start operations in early 2012 with an annual capacity of 60,000 units. Renault also has a battery plant in Flins, France that is expected to have a total production capacity of 100,000 units a year.

Nissan has a long history of producing lithium ion batteries, having started developing them in 1992. It was also one of the first mainstream automakers such as Ford to produce electric vehicles back in 1943.

‘Oil was much cheaper back then and the batteries were very heavy. The range meant they didn’t go very far,’ said Nielson.

‘We have had a breakthrough in the technology allowing Nissan’s lithium ion battery to be put into mass production. We’ve had the size of the battery reduced and made more compact and also made it more powerful half the size of the previous generation.’

The flat lithium ion batteries Nissan will produce will fit in the floor a normal sized car such as the five-seater Nissan Leaf. For Nissan, producing its own flat batteries is an advantage as some lithium ion versions are cylindrical.

Nielson said that Nissan is targeting both fleet and private customers with its electric vehicles, and is already leasing vehicles through a deal with Leaseplan.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance aims to be a global leader in zero-emission mobility and to have the capacity to produce 500,000 electric vehicles together with batteries by 2015. In 2008, Portugal became the first country in Europe to partner with the Alliance for zero-emission mobility. The country is building an extensive network of charging stations and expects to have installed 1,350 charging units across the country later this year.

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