‘Nissan planning battery gigafactory at Sunderland’, reports say

Fresh reports suggest a massive ‘gigafactory’ to make batteries for electric cars is being lined up for a site next to the Nissan plant in Sunderland.

The reports in the Financial Times say that Nissan is advanced talks with the Government in a move that would make the UK the company’s biggest electric car producer outside of Japan.

The Journal reported last year that a feasibility study into the creation of a gigafactory at Sunderland had been launched with funding from the Government’s Automotive Transformation Fund.

The new reports say that talks began after Britain’s Brexit deal with the EU and that a full announcement is set to be made in the summer, ahead of the COP26 climate summit due to held in Britain this year.

Nissan did not confirm whether the plans had been approved.

The company 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.”

It is thought that other gigafactories are being considered by the Government but Nissan’s is the frontrunner.

Under the plans, the factory would be created at the nearby Envision AESC plant, which lies next to Nissan’s Sunderland factory, and produces batteries for the Nissan Leaf.

The existing plant was previously a joint venture between Nissan, but it was sold to Envision in 2019.

It is thought that the new facility would be run by Envision and would produce 200,000 battery cars a year along with thousands of jobs. It also claimed that Nissan wants to secure tens of millions of pounds from the Government for the project, including a way to lower its energy costs for producing the batteries.

If the project is approved, the factory would open towards the end of 2024 and would initially produce 6 gigawatt hours (GWH) of battery capacity per year during the first phase of the project. This would increase to between 18 and 20GWh once the project is complete.

Envision’s current site currently has a capacity for 1.9GWh.

Envision also declined to confirm whether the plans had been approved.

The company said: “Envision AESC can confirm that following acquisition of the UK’s only battery plant in 2019 we have been supplying batteries to Nissan’s Sunderland plant to produce the Nissan Leaf. We have no further plans or comments to make at this time.”

The plans to build the battery gigafactory come at a time when the UK Government has banned the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2030. Increased production of car batteries is needed to power the electric cars that will take their place.

With Nissan located in the North East, the region has long been a powerhouse of British car manufacturing, with automotive companies and supply chain firms calling the region home.

There are hopes that it could also become a hub for battery manufacturing, with last year seeing the launch of Britishvolt, a new company dedicated to researching and developing lithium-ion batteries. Britishvolt wants to build a gigafactory at Blyth, Northumberland.

Commenting on the news that the new gigafactory could soon be built in Sunderland, Britishvolt said: “Britishvolt, the UK’s foremost investor in lithium-ion battery cell technology and R&D, are encouraged by news reports of potential further gigafactory investments in the UK.

“It underscores the importance of lithium-ion battery facilities to keep up with the growing demands from OEMs as they transition to electrification. It is also positive to understand that UK Government is taking battery production seriously, on the road map to net zero, and are backing this up by providing funding in line with that provided in the EU for its battery industry development.”

Chronicle Live – Sunderland