NISSAN’S new £200million Wearside battery plant is fully charged.
The car giant has begun producing the batteries that will power a new generation of electric vehicles at the factory next to its Wearside car plant.
Sunderland will begin building the all-electric Leaf later this year – but confirmation the company would be producing batteries for its European operation in Sunderland actually came before the firm had announced which plant had won the race to build the eco-friendly family car.
News that batteries would be produced at a new plant on Wearside – with the creation of 350 jobs – came in July 2009, when then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Business Secretary Lord Mandelson visited the Sunderland site.
Mr Brown paid tribute to the hard work of the staff who had made Sunderland Europe’s most productive car factory.
He said: “You have proved, by your productivity, by your excellence, by your quality that new investment should come here.
“What Nissan is doing here today is creating a new facility for battery production, but also a centre of excellence for the whole of Europe.
“The rest of Europe will look to Nissan here in Sunderland for leadership.
“Just as you led the way in the transport and industrial revolutions, so you are now leading the way in the low-carbon revolution of the future.”
Although securing the battery plant did not guarantee Leaf production would come to Sunderland, it did make the Wearside plant a front-runner.
Confirmation of the deal arrived in March 2010, when Nissan senior vice-president Andy Palmer announced: “Nissan Leaf will be built at Sunderland, making the UK the third country in the world to produce this revolutionary car.”
Work on the battery plant began just a month later, with the company’s global chief operating officer Toshiyuki Shiga performing the ground-breaking ceremony.
Mr Shiga said that Nissan was determined to be at the forefront of the green transport revolution, and the battery plant development would put Sunderland at the cutting edge of the new technology.
“I know we can rely on the Sunderland management team and workforce to deliver this exceptional vehicle to our customers,” he said.
“This is a big responsibility, but you have earned the trust and confidence Nissan has placed in you.”