Britain's Sunderland assembly plant will be the third global production site for Nissan Motor Co.'s new Leaf electric vehicle. Production will start in early 2013 and initially, the plant will have a capacity of 50,000 units. or this project, Nissan and its French alliance partner Renault will invest more than 420 million pounds ($642.6 million).
A lithium ion battery plant will be constructed on the site. Nissan is relying on the five-seat Leaf hatchback to propel it to the lead in the market for zero emissions vehicles. Later this year, production will begin in Oppama, Japan. In the US, production will start in early 2013 at the Smyrna, Tenn. plant.
Nissan said that the Leaf will go on sale this year in Japan, the US, and some European markets. For Nissan to achieve its global mass marketing to begin from 2012, Nissan and Renault plan to have a global electric vehicle production capacity of 500,000 units.
By next year, Renault will start rolling out its electric cars. In the Sunderland plant, Nissan has started preparing its Number 2 line for the Leaf. The electric car will be made beside the Juke compact crossover, which will start production in August.
Sunderland's battery manufacturing plant, which has a capacity of 60,000 units a year, starts operation in 2012. It will supply both Nissan and Renault electric vehicles.
Nissan revealed that production of the Leaf and batteries is supported by a 20.7-million-pound British government grant and a proposed finance package of up to 220 million euros ($302 million) from the European Investment Bank. [via autonews - sub. required]