Thousands of jobs look set to be announced this week as Nissan outlines plans for increased battery production around its Sunderland plant.
Reports that the automotive giant is to ramp up its commitment to electric vehicles have been circulating for weeks, but as recently as Monday the company was saying that it had “no further plans to announce at this time”.
Now a “major global news announcement” will be made on Thursday, with hopes that jobs can be created at Nissan, a battery plant close to the site and the automotive supply chain in the region.
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Nissan’s battery partner Envision AESC last year received Government funding to draw up plans for a gigaplant at Sunderland. The company was set up as a joint venture involving Nissan before being sold to its current Chinese owners in 2019.
The need for huge increases in battery production for electric vehicles has come after the UK Government committed to phasing the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. The terms of the post-Brexit trade agreement also added to the impetus for scaling up battery production in the UK.
Reports suggest that Nissan is set to not only announce increased battery production in Sunderland but potentially a new model of electric vehicle as well. It currently produces the Leaf on Wearside, having made around 200,000 since it first went into production in 2013.
The announcement looks likely to signal a positive future for Nissan and the wider North East automotive sector after a turbulent few years.
The 2016 Brexit referendum vote led to a number of warnings from the company about its future in the UK, while the car sector as a whole suffered from a slump in demand in China and the US, plus turmoil around emissions from diesel cars.
The Covid-19 pandemic also hit demand, and car manufacturers are now struggling with a global shortage of superconductor chips, which has caused Nissan and other companies to have to suspend some production.
But Nissan recently celebrated the start of production of the third generation Qashqai at Sunderland and a number of key executives have spoken of their positivity for the future of the plant.
Separately, plans for another battery gigafactory near Blyth, in Northumberland, are being worked on by new company Britishvolt.
The company is seeking Government funding and also has to raise private investment for the more than £1bn needed to make those plans a reality.