Nissan Motor Co. announced that its Smyrna battery plant in Tennessee has commenced producing lithium-ion packs for the carmaker’s rechargeable Leaf electric vehicle. In a statement, Nissan said that the first batch of batteries produced at the Smyrna plant, financed by a $1.4 billion low-interest federal loan, has completed an aging process and is ready for use.
Nissan has hired over 300 workers at the battery factory and adjacent auto-assembly plant, where the carmaker will start producing the Leaf in early 2013.
Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn said in the statement that the opening of the plant in Tennessee supports the carmaker’s goal of making zero-emissions mobility a reality “through American jobs and American manufacturing.” Nissan added it may hire another 1,000 new workers for the Tennessee plant.
Nissan, which aims to become the world’s largest seller of electric vehicles, has fallen short of Ghosn's target of selling at least 20,000 Leafs in the United States in 2012. For the January-November 2012 period, Nissan sold only 8,330 Nissan Leafs.
The carmaker will roll out a modified version of the Leaf early 2013, expecting its sales to rise with the addition of US production.
The battery plant in Tennessee is designed to build up to 200,000 packs annually. Nissan, along with Ford Motor Co., Tesla Motors Inc. and Fisker Automotive Inc., received federal loans from the Obama administration targeted at kick-starting a US market for battery-only cars and plug-in hybrids.
Sales of the vehicles, however, still have a long way to go to achieve the administration's goal of getting 1 million rechargeable cars to ply US roads by 2015.