Nissan announces electric car investment

Author: By Alan Jones, Press Association

Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Business Secretary Lord Mandelson visited the
firm’s plant in Sunderland, north east England, to hear the news, which
gives a big boost to the UK’s recession-battered motor industry.

The battery investment makes the Sunderland plant a contender for manufacture
of the group’s new “greener” electric vehicles.

The Prime Minister said: “Nissan’s investment in a new battery plant and
its hope to start producing electric vehicles here in Sunderland is great
news for the local economy, creating up to 350 direct jobs and creating and
safeguarding hundreds more in the associated supply chain.

“This investment is also hugely significant as we embark on Building
Britain’s Future, our plan for recovery and beyond powered by low carbon,
high technology industries, products and services.

“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 Government said it was working with Nissan on supporting the investment by
offering grants and loan guarantees, including support through its
Automotive Assistance Programme.

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 UK’s place as a global leader in hi-tech
manufacturing and automotive industries.

“The collaboration between local businesses, universities and colleges
will create a hub of expertise to boost innovation and accelerate business
growth in this important area of ‘green’ industry.”

The Government announced plans to established a “Low Carbon Economic Area”
in the North East, including a training centre which will be the first to
specialise in the manufacture and maintenance of ultra-low carbon vehicles.

Ministers are in talks with companies such as the AA about how the centre can
help update skills to keep up with the growing use of ultra-low carbon

A research and development centre will also be established, serving as a home
for research from five local universities.

Over the next two years, 750 charging points will be installed in a range of
locations in the North East, including supermarkets, shopping centres,
public transport installations, hospitals, universities, public buildings
and domestic and business premises. The first points are currently being
installed in Newcastle and Gateshead.

Margaret Fay, chairman of development group One North East, welcomed the “visionary”
announcement, adding: “It confirms the North East of England’s growing
role at the forefront of the low-carbon economy and cements the region’s
position as a leading location for electric vehicle development in Europe.

“The North East’s Low Carbon Economic Area will be extremely important
for the future of the automotive industry in the region and will enable One
North East to attract further investment related to electric vehicles and
their infrastructure.”

Any Government grants to Nissan will be subject to European Commission

The research and development centre will be the home to research from the
Universities of Newcastle, Durham, Sunderland, Northumbria and Teesside,
looking at all aspects of low carbon technology, with projects including the
understanding of power consumption and charging patterns, the range
extension of all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, and energy storage.

Low Carbon Economic Areas were announced as part of the Government’s low
carbon industrial strategy last week, with the first based in the South West
of England, specialising in wave and tidal technology. Further areas are
expected to be announced over the next six months.

Nissan also announced plans to manufacture batteries at a plant in Portugal in
its alliance with Renault, describing today’s announcement as a “first
significant step” towards producing batteries for its zero emission mobility
programme in Europe.

“The two governments have offered to extend financial assistance and other
support to ensure that Nissan locates the proposed plants within their
respective countries.

“This recognises the significant contribution that the plants are likely to
make to the long term health of both the national and regional economies by
being central to the growth of the automotive and associated industries,
boosting jobs and the skills sector and pioneering the manufacture and sale
of zero emission vehicles in Europe,” the firm said.

Nissan senior vice-president for manufacturing, Europe, Trevor Mann, said: “In
March Nissan and regional development agency One North East signed a
memorandum of understanding committing both partners to explore fully the
North East’s potential to spearhead the UK’s drive towards zero emission

“Since then, a great deal of work has been going on at both the local and
national level to promote and facilitate the introduction of electric
vehicles within the region.

“Today’s announcement potentially marks another important milestone in
establishing low carbon transport as a viable and attractive alternative
across the North East and beyond, and reinforces Nissan’s commitment to lead
the world in the mass marketing of zero emission vehicles.”

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