Nissan is to safeguard 300 jobs with plans to build a new a generation of electric vehicle batteries at its Sunderland plant.
The car giant is ploughing £26.5million into its UK operations, guaranteeing the future of highly-skilled jobs in manufacturing, maintenance and engineering at its Wearside advanced lithium-ion battery plant, the largest of its type in Europe.
Part of today’s announcement will see the firm launch a £19.4million partnership in which it will team up with new academic and technology partners, supported with a £9.7million grant from the UK’s Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC).
Consortium members Washington-based Hyperdrive Innovation, Warwick Manufacturing Group, University of Warwick, Newcastle University and North East renewable energy specialists Zero Carbon Futures will work together on key areas of battery development.
Nissan Europe chairman Paul Willcox said the announcement was proof of the firm’s long-term commitment to electric vehicle (EV) production on Wearside.
“With 200,000 customers around the world already, the Nissan Leaf has transformed the performance and perception of EVs and made Nissan the undisputed leader in EV technology,” he said.
“Today’s announcement reflects Nissan’s intention to remain EV leaders for many years to come, with our UK operations at the heart of our future innovations.
“I congratulate all my colleagues in the UK on securing this future technology, which is just reward for the second-to-none quality levels they have achieved since launching battery manufacturing in Sunderland, which remains the biggest UK car plant of all time.”
The announcement comes at the beginning of a landmark year in which Nissan will celebrate the 30th anniversary year of its Sunderland factory – now the largest plant in the history of the UK car industry.
Nissna has ploughed more than £400million into producing electric vehicles on Wearside.
Production of the Leaf began in 2013 and the combination of the car and the Sunderland battery plant – which builds power packs for both the Leaf and the all-electric e-NV200 van, manufactured in the company’s plant in Barcelona – has supported more than 2,000 jobs at Nissan and in its UK supply chain.
Hyperdrive Innovation managing director Stephen Irish said: “This project will be instrumental in driving up volumes of the battery packs that we make incorporating our own in-house developed battery management system technology.
"Through the collaboration we will be utilising the highest quality battery cells and modules to commercialise a modular energy storage system developed and manufactured to automotive standards and configurable for a wide range of applications.
“Since we started in business in 2012 Hyperdrive has developed a number of battery packs which have been proven on vehicles and for energy storage. Last year we invested in manufacturing facilities and key personnel to take us into series production.
"Our products are sophisticated, with market-leading battery electronics and the APC project significantly strengthens our local supply chain and will enable increased levels of automation in production to further enhance market competitiveness.
“We’re extremely proud that Nissan has chosen to work with Hyperdrive and this award is testament to the progress that we have already made over the last twelve months in securing a multi-million pound R&D programme in new battery management technologies.
"The APC4 project is perfectly aligned with our business plans for increasing production capacity and is a terrific opportunity for our business and the wider consortium to supply new markets.”
Sunderland City Council leader Coun Paul Watson added: “Nissan’s news strengthens Sunderland’s position as a UK leader in green car manufacture. This major investment announced by Nissan in its electric batteries plant is fantastic news to begin 2016.
“The city’s A19 Low Carbon Enterprise Zone is now not only home to Nissan’s electric LEAF vehicle and lithium-ion battery plant, but also to a number of alternative fuel automotive companies working successfully from Sunderland.
“We have worked closely with Nissan over the years to ensure that it has the conditions it needs to thrive in Sunderland. This latest investment in the next generation of electric vehicle batteries reinforces the importance of both the low carbon sector and automotive manufacturing to the economy of Sunderland and the UK.”