UK: Envision AESC lays foundation for Sunderland gigafactory

Envision AESC has begun the building works for its battery factory near the Nissan plant in Sunderland, UK. It will be the second UK facility for the EV battery specialist from Japan. Envision AESC also announced new details regarding capacities after reports had varied.

Once the new plant comes on stream in 2025, it will have an annual capacity of 12 GWh, writes Envision in today’s announcement. This is more than the 9 GWh the company had set when publishing the plans for Sunderland in July 2021. A few months later, in October, Envision CEO Zhang Lei named an initial capacity of 11 GWh, but already for 2024. But going back to the latest news, expansion, so far, has been forecasted as 25 GWh by 2030 and ultimately up to 35 GWh.

The type of cell AESC will be making for Nissan here has remained unchanged, with Envision saying it would produce its latest generation batteries with 30% more energy density. They further promise to deliver enough batteries to power 100,000 electric vehicles annually. They did not provide more details, and it remains unclear whether the facility will manufacture cells or also house the assembly of entire battery modules.

However, Nissan’s presence in Sunderland and cooperation with AESC have been longstanding. Nissan Europe Vice President of Engineering Andy Marsh explained how the first Sunderland battery plant helped launch the 100% electric Nissan LEAF and expects the second factory to become “a fundamental part of our EV36Zero project, which brings together electric vehicle production, battery manufacturing and renewables as we drive towards carbon neutrality”.

The EV36Zero initiative is worth £1 billion to Nissan and Envision AESC with the cooperation of the Sunderland Council. As battery partner Envision pledged to invest £450 million (about €525 mn) in the UK’s “first Gigafactory”. Nissan, in turn, promised up to £423 mn to produce another electric model in Sunderland in form of an all-electric crossover model based on the CMF EV platform from the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance. Nissan plans to create a production capacity of 100,000 vehicles per year in Sunderland.

According to the Japanese partners, the announced projects will create 6,200 jobs at Nissan and its UK suppliers, including more than 900 new Nissan jobs and 750 new Envision AESC jobs at its battery plant. Envision AESC also says it will increase the above initial investment of £450 mn in the manufacturing facility to £1.8 billion “in a later phase”, the equivalent of around €2.1 bn, and today spoke of employing up to 4,500 staff.

The company is already known to operate a 1.9 GWh plant on site, built in 2012 under Nissan. At the time, AESC was still working as a battery subsidiary of the Japanese carmaker before Nissan sold AESC to Envision Group in 2018. Within the last nine years, “enough cells, modules and packs for over 180,000 electric vehicles in 44 countries” have been produced at the plant, most notably for installation in the Nissan Leaf and e-NV200.

Globally, the second facility is part of Envision’s plan to scale up EV manufacturing capabilities in strategic regions. The plant follows last year’s announcements to build gigafactories in Douai, France, the US state of Kentucky, Ibaraki Japan, and Extremadura in Spain. This brings Envision AESC’s total capacity to more than 150GWh worldwide and advances its commitment to reach 300GWh by 2026.


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