On the two-year anniversary of selling the Leaf electric car here, Nissan today launched production of lithium-ion battery packs at its factory in Smyrna, Tennessee. The batteries will be used for the 2013 Nissan Leaf and should help the automaker cut its manufacturing costs on the electric car.
Until now, Nissan has built lithium-ion battery packs and the entire Leaf in Japan and then shipped the electric cars to the U.S. By building the car and its 24-kWh battery stateside, Nissan can reduce the car’s shipping costs and probably make higher profits.
“We are making significant strides as one of the largest producers of electric vehicles and batteries in the United States,” Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said in a statement. “The opening of this facility in Tennessee supports our goal of making zero-emissions mobility a reality through American jobs and American manufacturing.”
The battery facility is adjacent to Nissan’s vehicle assembly line in Smyrna, and opening it reportedly created 300 jobs so far, with another 1000 jobs expected to be added as Nissan ramps up Leaf production. The Leaf hatchback itself is built on the same flexible assembly line as the Altima and Maxima sedans, allowing Nissan to constantly vary how many of each car it builds. The Smyrna plant also assembles the Nissan Pathfinder and Infiniti JX35, and will start building the Nissan Rogue from spring 2013.
Nissan says that since the car’s launch in December 2010, it has sold 18,000 Leafs in the U.S. and a total of 46,000 globally.