Author: By Sarah Arnott
The factory, which will produce 60,000 lithium-ion batteries each year, is
contingent on support from both the European Investment Bank (EIB) and UK
government grants. The Japanese giant, along with its alliance partner
Renault, is planning to sell electric cars in the US and Japan from early
next year, before hitting the global mass market in 2012.
The Government hopes that Nissan’s move will secure the group’s hi-tech
Sunderland plant as a site for manufacture of electric vehicles. Prime
Minister Gordon Brown said yesterday: “Sunderland could now be a strong
contender to produce electric vehicles for Nissan in Europe, and we will
continue to work with Nissan to ensure this happens.”
The firm, which already employs 4,200 people in the UK, is the country’s
biggest car exporter. Both the Prime Minister and Lord Mandelson, the
Business Secretary, were in Sunderland yesterday to endorse the Nissan
investment and launch the Government’s designation of the North-east as a
Low-Carbon Economic Area (LCEA). Lord Mandelson said: “The North-east
has distinguished itself as the first specialised region for ultra-low
carbon vehicles. This is good news not just for the North-east, but for the
whole of the UK, helping to attract foreign investment and securing the UK’s
place as a global leader in hi-tech manufacturing and automotive industries.”
The LCEA scheme was introduced in last week’s Low-Carbon Industrial Strategy,
in order to boost industrial development and create green jobs. The first
LCEA will be in Cornwall, focusing on wind power. In the North-east, the
plans include setting up a training centre to specialise in the manufacture
and maintenance of electric cars, as well as a research and development
centre bringing together work from the region’s five universities and a
test-track to try out new technologies.
The initiatives will be funded by One North East, the regional development
agency, which is also looking at reopening part of the Leamside freight
railway line to improve access to local ports.
The UK Government wants Britain to be the “green car capital of Europe”,
and manufacturers are responding. Last week Toyota, the world’s biggest car
maker, confirmed plans to build its hybrid Auris in Derbyshire from the
middle of next year. Vauxhall is also pushing for its Ellesmere Port factory
to be the European manufacturer of GM’s Ampera hybrid. A US import is to go
on sale next year.
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