Nissan Motor Co bet on Britain to supercharge its European electric future on Thursday, pledging $1.4 billion with its Chinese partner to build a giant battery plant that will power 100,000 vehicles a year including a new crossover model.
Facing the most profound technological shift in a century, the titans of the auto industry are racing to secure battery supply close to the factories where they will make the new cleaner electric vehicles of the future.
Nissan’s backing for the 9 gigawatt hours (GWh) plant cements its wager on Britain five years since the Brexit vote threatened to block off the rest of the European market.
The 1 billion-pound investment by Nissan, its Chinese partner Envision AESC and local government in northern England will create 6,200 jobs at the Sunderland plant and in British supply chains.
The capacity of the new plant is on a par with one announced by France’s Renault and Envision earlier this week.
Nissan will spend up to 423 million pounds to produce a new-generation all-electric crossover vehicle at the plant where it already produces the LEAF electric vehicle and the Qashqai crossover SUV.
As world powers try to slash carbon emissions by scrapping the fossil-fuel guzzling internal combustion engine, one of the icons of 20th Century capitalism, Britain has pledged to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars from 2030.
China dominates the production of electric vehicle batteries and the processing of the core minerals such as rare earths used to make them, though the United States and Europe and are trying to catch up, albeit slowly.
Western leaders, including Johnson, are loath to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of automotive jobs – often in politically sensitive constituencies – in exchange for importing batteries from China.
But unless Britain can build both battery production and supply chains, it risks losing its four-decade reputation as the investor-friendly gateway of choice for top companies seeking to export to the rest of Europe.
Envision could invest an additional 1.8 billion pounds in the battery plant to generate up to 25GWh and create 4,500 new jobs in the region by 2030. There is potential on site for up to 35GWh, Nissan said.
Nissan said its new crossover built in Sunderland, on the Alliance CMF-EV platform shared by partners Renault and Mitsubishi, would be exported to European markets.