Nissan Builds First Lithium-Ion Cells For 2013 Leaf Electric Car (Video)

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Just two years after the first Nissan Leaf was sold in the U.S., Nissan said today it has opened a plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, to fabricate lithium-ion cells for electric-car batteries.

The first cells built at the plant have completed the necessary aging process, and can now be charged for the first time.

Those cells will go into electric cars built in its adjacent assembly plant, the first of which will be the 2013 Nissan Leaf.

That is a slightly revised model of the battery-electric car it has been importing from Oppama, Japan, for the 2011 and 2012 model years.

The U.S. version of the updated 2013 Leaf, which has not yet been described by the company, will be built among Altima and Maxima sedans on the existing assembly line.

Other all-electric models will be added later, almost surely including a production version of the Infiniti LE compact luxury sedan revealed as a concept at this year's New York Auto Show.

The cell fabrication factory in Smyrna is the largest plant in the U.S. that builds automotive-scale lithium-ion batteries, and one of just three globally for Nissan.

It can produce batteries for up to 200,000 electric vehicles a year. The other two, which can build 50,000 apiece, are in Japan and in Sunderland, England.

To date, Nissan has sold just over 18,000 Leafs in the U.S. in the car's two years on the market. Worldwide Leaf sales total roughly 46,000.

That U.S. total is second among plug-in cars only to the Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric vehicle, of which almost 29,000 have been delivered.

Nissan says that opening the cell plant and adding Leaf production to the Smyrna lines has created more than 300 jobs.

Nissan Smyrna Tennessee

Nissan Smyrna Tennessee

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"The opening of this facility in Tennessee," said Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, "supports our goal of making zero-emissions mobility a reality through American jobs and American manufacturing.”

At full production volumes of 150,000 cars and 200,000 batteries per year, up to 1,000 jobs could be added, it said.

The battery plant and the addition of Leaf production to North America was largely funded by a low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Energy's advanced-technology vehicle manufacturing program.

Nissan was granted a $1.6 billion loan in June 2009, along with Ford and Tesla--and, later that year, Fisker.

It ultimately used $1.4 billion of the loan proceeds, with the investment in both plants when they are operating at full capacity totaling up to $1.7 billion.

Details on the revised 2013 Nissan Leaf "will be announced closer to the vehicle’s on-sale date in early 2013," the company said.


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Comments (7)
  1. Are the lithium cells themselves built in TN or they are just assembled in TN?

    There are stories floating around that Nissan is changing to LG cells and "build" the battery packs in TN with those LG cells. So, it is similar to Chevy Volt's battery pack. Build in America with "imported" cells.

  2. The article says "The first cells built at the plant have completed the necessary aging process, and can now be charged for the first time." It seems pretty unambiguous to me that the cells themselves were made at the plant, not merely imported, not least since imported cells would have been aged and charged at their plant of origin.

  3. @Xiaolong: There are often stories "floating around" on a lot of different topics. In this case, Nissan has confirmed that the cells it is fabricating in Tennessee are essentially the same AESC cells as it builds elsewhere.

    As for the rumor about LG Chem, those cells are likely to be used in a different Nissan electrified powertrain.

  4. Okay. Thanks for the confirmation!

  5. Any idea about the market share of the remaining 28k Leafs sold in the rest of the world (46k global sales - 18k in the U.S.)?

    In October Nissan said 19k have been sold in Japan, and a French website reports 6k for European sales throug October 2012. That leaves 3k missing (or sold in the rest of the world during November?) I am being picky because just yesterday Nissan USA reported 45k global sales (see the Wikipedia article about the Leaf for the sources)

    Is Nissan inflating a bit the two-year anniversary figures?

  6. Thanks for adding the video. It is great to see what they are up to.

  7. Very nice to see that these are being built in the US.

    Makes me all the more pleased to be the owner, A VERY HAPPY ONE, of a '13 Leaf SL.

    Truly a wonderful car.

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