Nissan is reported to be progressing with plans to build a battery factory in the UK in 2024 to support its transition to an EV-only line-up, and could make an official statement later this week.
Citing three people close to the project, the Financial Times (FT) reported last month that the Japanese manufacturer was in “advanced talks” with the UK government and was expected to make an official announcement on the discussions’ outcome in the coming months.
When approached by Autocar, a Nissan spokesperson refused to give further details, but said: “Having established EV and battery production in the UK in 2013 for the Nissan Leaf, our Sunderland plant has played a pioneering role in developing the electric vehicle market.
“As previously announced, we will continue to electrify our line-up as part of our global journey towards carbon neutrality, however we have no further plans to announce at this time.”
Nissan is expanding its operations in the Tyne and Wear region in line with a view to making the UK its biggest production hub outside of Japan.
It recently outlined plans to expand its Sunderland battery production facility, run by engineering partner Envision, to supply larger power packs for the UK-built Leaf, in line with post-Brexit foreign trade rules.
The new factory is reported too far exceed the 1.9GWh capacity of that existing facility (although it will be smaller than Tesla’s 35GWh Nevada site), with production initially running at 6GWh and eventually topping out at between 18GWh and 20GWh.
The site will again be run by Envision, and the FT reports that it will have a production capacity of 200,000 units annually, creating “thousands of jobs”.
The FT’s sources claim that Nissan wants “tens of millions of pounds” worth of support from the British government and to secure lower energy costs for the plant’s operation.
Nissan’s battery factory would be the UK’s second such facility, following the opening of Britishvolt’s £2.6bn site in nearby Blyth in 2023. Designed by Pininfarina, that facility is expected to have a capacity of 300,000 batteries per year by 2027 and create around 8000 jobs on-site and in the supply chain.
While talks with Nissan are ongoing, the UK government is reported to also be talking to “several other potential gigafactory investors”. It’s widely believed that the UK automotive industry will become uncompetitive globally without its own battery-production facilities.
Rumours persist that Tesla could be considering its own battery factory in the UK, although this possibility was weakened in 2019 when the firm opted to open a site near Berlin in Germany (which has lately been beset by permit delays and local opposition).
A recent visit to the UK by Tesla boss Elon Musk reignited suggestions that a Tesla production outpost here is back on the cards, although he has yet to publicly comment on the speculation.