Nissan announces plans to build a £1 billion ($1.38 billion) “gigafactory” in Sunderland in a major boost to the country’s electric vehicle plans.
The Japanese automaker said it was launching the project, dubbed Nissan EV36Zero, along with battery technology company Envision AESC, and Sunderland City Council.
Nissan has been manufacturing in Sunderland for 35 years, and said 1,650 new jobs would be created at the hub: 900 at Nissan and 750 at Envision AESC. Its Chief Operating Officer, Ashwani Gupta, said the move reflected its roadmap towards carbon neutrality.
It also cast its backing for the nine gigawatt-hour (GWh) plant as illustrating a rejuvenation of Britain’s automobile industry, which for the last five years has experienced uncertainty about being cut off from the rest of the European market. The Sunderland plant currently exports 70% of its vehicles to the European Union.
The rise of ‘gigafactories’
The so-called gigafactories, which is a term coined by Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, are facilities which produce batteries for electric vehicles on a large scale. The automaker joins a number of other similar firms attempting to focus on the development of batteries for the electric vehicle market.
Earlier this week, French carmaker Renault announced it had signed two major partnerships in relation to the design and production of electric vehicle batteries. And in March, Germany’s Volkswagen said it was aiming to build several of these types of gigafactories in Europe by the end of the decade.
The issue of chip supplies
However the global chip shortage, which has been widely reported, reminds us that the automotive industry, like many others, still faces some challenges. And this situation around semiconductors was acknowledged by Gupta, but not just for Nissan, but all automotive manufacturers. He described it as an ‘unpredictable scenario’ but added the firm had started work on its digital supply chain system and how to improve forecasts for better planning.
However, he was confident about launching its new products in future and says all the launches are going to plan, adding it was now not about how to sell the car, but how to make it and that was a good problem to be able to solve.