Nissan has officially announced a new investment plan for its 35-year-old manufacturing site in Sunderland UK, which currently produces the Nissan Qashqai, Juke and Leaf.

The Japanese manufacturer, together with EV battery manufacturer Envision AESC and Sunderland City Council, intends to invest £1 billion to create the Nissan EV36Zero, an EV hub (a new 360-degree solution for zero-emission motoring) that will combine electric vehicles, renewable energy and battery production.

Envision AESC (formerly AESC - Nissan and NEC's JV - acquired by the Envision Group in 2019, in which Nissan - as far as we know - still holds a 20% share) is a battery arm of global green tech company Envision Group.

Envision AESC gigafactory

The main point of the plan is a new battery gigafactory that is expected to initially produce 9 GWh of cells annually.

Envision AESC will invest £450 million to build the plant on the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP), adjacent to the Nissan plant.

By 2030, the company will increase the investment up to £1.8 billion to expand the manufacturing capacity by additional 25 GWh annually to a total of around 35 GWh if needed.

The company already owns and operates Europe’s first battery plant in Sunderland (1.7-1.9 GWh annually, depending on data sources), established in 2012 for the localisation of Nissan LEAF battery production (and Nissan e-NV200). Over those nine years, the plant produced batteries (cells and modules) for over 180,000 electric vehicles that were sold in 44 countries.

The new plant will produce different, next-generation batteries, described as Gen5 with 30% more energy density, which we guess are NCM 811 cells, announced in 2019.

"The formal planning process is about to begin for the new gigafactory, which represents an initial 9GWh plant, with potential future-phase investment of £1.8bn by Envision AESC, generating up to 25GWh and creating 4,500 new high-value green jobs in the region by 2030, with potential on site for up to 35GWh.

The new plant will increase the cost-competitiveness of EV batteries produced in the UK, including through a new Gen5 battery cell with 30% more energy density which improves range and efficiency. This commitment will power Nissan’s new vehicles, supporting the continued localization of vehicle parts and components with advanced technology. This will make batteries cheaper and EVs more accessible to a growing number of customers in the future.

The new gigafactory will create 750 jobs and safeguard the jobs of 300 current employees."

Envision AESC Gigafactory (plan) in Sunderland, UK
Envision AESC Gigafactory (plan) in Sunderland, UK

That's the second battery gigafactory announced by Envision AESC, as earlier this week, the company announced a strategic partnership with Renault, Nissan's partner in the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.

According to the info we have received from Envision AESC, the battery plant in the UK is extremely important, as the country intends to ban conventional cars by around 2030, and local EV makers would face EU tariffs right from 2024. This is why a few gigafactories in the country are simply necessary to stay competitive.

According to our data, Envision AESC has three plants with a total output of 7.5 GWh annually (enough for up to 200,000 EVs):

Between 2010-2021, the company so far produced batteries for more than 600,000 electric cars, sold in 44 countries.

Nissan new EV

A new battery plant would not make any sense for Nissan if there would be no new EVs. The manufacturer announced a new electric crossover (we will focus on it in a separate post), which will require an investment of £423 million.

This new car, based on the Alliance CMF-EV platform, will be produced in Sunderland at a volume of up to 100,000 a year.

"As part of the £1 billion announcement, Nissan will invest up to £423 million to produce a new-generation all-electric vehicle in the UK. Building on Nissan’s expertise in crossovers and the worldwide success of the Nissan LEAF, it promises next-generation vehicle styling, efficiency and battery technology, making the switch to electric driving even more accessible.

Designed for global markets, UK production will be exported to the European markets traditionally served by Nissan’s Sunderland plant. The new crossover will be built on the Alliance CMF-EV platform, with a forecasted production capacity of up to 100,000 units to be installed.

Production in Sunderland will create 909 new jobs at the plant, and more than 4,500 in the UK supply chain, while safeguarding a further 75 R&D jobs. The transformational project takes the total capital investment by Nissan into the plant past £5bn, and also includes:

  • R&D at Nissan’s European Technical Centre in Cranfield, Bedfordshire
  • Support for UK suppliers to transition to electric vehicles
  • Plant competitiveness and environmental improvements
  • Skills development in the Nissan workforce for future technologies"

Energy storage and renewable electricity

The Nissan EV36Zero site is promised to be powered by 100% renewable electricity. To make it possible, the company will deploy a big 1 MW battery energy storage, built using second-life EV batteries.

"With the ability to incorporate the existing Nissan wind and solar farms, initial plans suggest there could be as many as ten solar farms created, with an anticipated 132MW generation, and with a direct connection to renewable energy from the UK grid for ‘firm’ supply to Nissan and automotive companies located on the adjacent International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP). Plans will continue to be developed in close discussion with potential private sector green investors.

A first-of-its-kind, this project is estimated to be an £80 million investment and also includes plans for a 1MW battery storage system using second-life Nissan EV/Envision AESC batteries, which will also allow for excess energy generated during daylight hours to be captured and used at another time, helping to balance demand on the grid. Additional infrastructure projects enabling the creation of the new EV Hub take the total initial investment above £1bn."