According to new media reports, a factory for electric car batteries is to be built at the British Nissan plant in Sunderland, which will be operated by the Chinese battery manufacturer Envision AESC. Nissan had sold its battery subsidiary AESC to Envision Group in 2018, but still holds a minority stake.
The new battery factory at Nissan’s Sunderland plant is due to open in 2024 and will initially have an annual capacity of six GWh – more than three times that of the existing plant, which currently has a capacity of 1.9 GWh a year. Later, capacity could be increased to between 18 and 20 GWh, according to a report by The Guardian, among others. An official announcement of the new battery plant is expected in the coming months.
The move does not come as a surprise. As part of a feasibility study supported by the British government, it became public in November 2020 that the construction of a new battery “gigafactory” under the direction of AESC at its site next to the Nissan plant in Sunderland was being investigated. The company currently operates the 1.9 GWh plant on site (building cells for the Leaf’s 40 kWh pack, among others), but suffered from the Corona crisis, which saw AESC Envision cut 130 jobs in Sunderland in the interim. A third of the workforce is said to have been affected.
Nissan is very interested in a larger battery factory adjacent to its vehicle plant. The Japanese have warned several times, according to The Guardian, that a Brexit trade deal involving tariffs and border controls would threaten the future of the Sunderland plant. In January, however, the BBC reported, citing Nissan COO Ashwani Gupta, that the carmaker now sees the Brexit deal as “positive for Nissan“.
Nissan had sold its battery subsidiary AESC to Envision Group in 2018. Envision AESC, meanwhile, also has plants in Japan and the United States. Annual production capacity totals 7.5 GWh – 3 GWh in the US state of Tennessee, 2.6 GWh in Kanagawa, Japan, and the said 1.9 GWh in Sunderland, UK, according to the company. AESC Envision has also started construction of a plant in Wuxi, China, in 2019, which is expected to have an annual capacity of 20 GWh. It is unclear to what extent production is already taking place there.