Nissan and Envision AESC unveil Sunderland gigafactory
Nissan and Envision-AESC have today committed to creating a £1 billion flagship Electric Vehicle (EV) hub in Sunderland, securing the city's future viability as a car manufacturing centre and providing further impetus behind the north-east region's burgeoning reputation as a magnet for sustainable energy.
The carmaker will invest up to £423 million to produce an all-electric EV36Zero vehicle in the UK, effectively ending speculation that it may pull out after investment concerns following Brexit, while Envision AESC will invest £450 million to build the gigafactory on the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP), adjacent to the Nissan plant.
Envision AESC, the battery arm of global green tech company Envision Group, will deploy integrated AIoT smart technology to monitor and optimize energy consumption, manufacturing and maintenance at its new gigafactory.
Nissan President and Chief Executive Officer, Makoto Uchida said: “This project comes as part of Nissan's pioneering efforts to achieve carbon neutrality throughout the entire lifecycle of our products. Our comprehensive approach includes not only the development and production of EVs, but also the use of on-board batteries as energy storage and their reuse for secondary purposes."
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed Nissan’s announcement to build its new-generation all-electric vehicle, alongside a new gigafactory from Envision-AESC, is a major vote of confidence in the UK and the region's highly-skilled workers.
“Building on over 30 years of history in the area, this is a pivotal moment in our electric vehicle revolution and securing its future for decades to come," he said. “Commitments like these exemplify our ability to create hundreds of green jobs and boost British industry, whilst also allowing people to travel in an affordable and sustainable way so we can eliminate our contributions to climate change.”
Nissan’s Chief Operating Officer, Ashwani Gupta, said: “This is a landmark day for Nissan, our partners, the UK and the automotive industry as a whole. Nissan EV36Zero will transform the idea of what is possible for our industry and set a roadmap for the future for all. We reached a new frontier with the Nissan LEAF, the world’s first mass-market all-electric vehicle. Now, with our partners, Nissan will pioneer the next phase of the automotive industry as we accelerate towards full electrification and carbon neutrality.”
The projects will create 900 Nissan jobs and 750 Envision AESC jobs, and support 6,200 jobs at Nissan and across the UK supply chain.
UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: "This is a huge step forward in our ambition to put the UK at the front of the global electric vehicle race, and further proof, if any was needed, that the UK remains one of the most competitive locations in the world for automotive manufacturing.
“I am extremely proud that Nissan has not only reaffirmed its belief in Britain, but is doubling down on its long-standing commitment to our country. The cars made in this plant, using batteries made just down the road at the UK’s first at scale gigafactory, will have a huge role to play as we transition away from petrol and diesel cars and kick-start a domestic electric vehicle manufacturing base.”
A new-generation electric crossover
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.
The 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
Other production locations have not yet been confirmed. More details about the new vehicle, including pricing and technology, will be released closer to the car's sales launch.
Next-generation EV batteries
Envision AESC already owns and operates Europe’s first battery plant in Sunderland, established in 2012 for the local production of the Nissan LEAF battery. The factory’s UK team has nine years’ expertise from supplying batteries to the Nissan LEAF and eNV200, having produced enough cells, modules and packs to power over 180,000 electric vehicles in 44 countries.
Supporting this new model allocation, powered by renewable energy and pioneering next-generation battery technology.
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.
Lei Zhang, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Envision Group, said: "This commitment builds on our long-term partnership with Nissan to achieve our global ambition to make high performance, longer range batteries for EVs affordable and accessible for millions more motorists.
“Growth in demand could bring future investment of up to £1.8bn, additional capacity of 25GWh and 4,500 jobs by 2030. This will put the North East at the heart of a new EV hub in the UK, collaborating on R&D around the whole battery lifecycle, from storage, to second life use, V2G smart charging and closed loop recycling.”
Zero Emission vehicles and Zero Emission Manufacturing
Bringing this ecosystem together, Sunderland City Council is leading a project that aims to deliver a 100% renewable electricity ‘Microgrid’ that will save 55,000 tonnes of carbon annually.
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.
The 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.
Sunderland City Council leader, Councillor Graeme Miller, said: “Sunderland is an ambitious city, and today’s announcement is game-changing one for us, for the region and for UK Plc, and the culmination of many months of partnership working with Nissan, Envision AESC and UK Government to ensure that we landed this transformational project.
“We’re proud to be acting as a key enabler, working to secure an £80m infrastructure project that could be the first of its kind in the UK, bringing together energy generation, consumption and storage through a dedicated microgrid.
“We have a commitment to making Sunderland as a city carbon neutral by 2040 and electrification is a key part of that vision. Today’s announcement places Sunderland at the center of electric vehicle production in Europe. It vindicates the unwavering belief this council has in the city’s ability to drive the electric revolution, working in partnership with the private sector and Government to bring nationally significant projects to fruition, creating jobs and prosperity for our people and businesses, and delivering cleaner, greener cars in the process.”
David Watson, CEO and Founder of Ohme said Nissan’s commitment to build an EV gigafactory in the UK is great news for both the UK economy and our progress towards decarbonisation, but we must now turn attention to smart charging technology.
"Without this, we risk undermining the progress we’re making by rolling out 'dumb' infrastructure at scale, which will slow down the electric revolution. True smart charging helps protect batteries and the grid and collect invaluable behavioural data - upping production is only one half of the battle, widespread electrification in the UK will depend on our industry thinking holistically and getting smart."
Nissan started production in Sunderland in July 1986, 35 years ago this month. Since then the plant has grown into the biggest plant in the history of the UK automotive industry, supporting 46,000 UK jobs.
Neighbouring Teesside is expanding its sustainable energy profile with plans to build the Tees Valley Hydrogen Transport Hub and Net Zero Industry Innovation Centre. Professor Michael Short, Professor of Control Engineering and System Informatics at Teesside University, who also leads the Centre for Sustainable Engineering, shares his insights in our '5 Mins With...' column this week (click here).
Britishvolt is building a gigafactory in Blyth, Northumberland, and intends to begin construction this summer, with production starting by the end of 2023.