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Nissan puts Sunderland at centre of $18bn electric drive

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Chill-Out concept electric vehicle
Chill-Out concept electric vehicle

Nissan plans to use its Sunderland factory as a blueprint for an $18bn (£13bn) push aimed at dominating the global electric car market.

The Japanese company plans 15 new electric models by 2030 with EVs accounting for half its global output by then.

Ashwani Gupta, Nissan chief operating officer, said Sunderland would be at the forefront of its plans.

“Europe will take the lead on electrification around the world for Nissan. In Europe, Sunderland is the one which will take the lead towards electrification,” he said.

Nissan expects three-quarters of its European sales to be electric by 2026, followed by Japan at 55pc.

It makes the electric Leaf and the hybrid Qashqai in Sunderland as well as the petrol and diesel-powered Juke.

In the summer Nissan signed a £1bn deal to build Britain's first electric car battery gigafactory, partnering with Chinese battery maker Envision.

A new factory will produce enough batteries for 100,000 cars when it starts operating in three years’ time as part of a plan that will create 1,650 jobs.

Putting Sunderland at the centre of Nissan's plan comes as a change in rhetoric from the warnings issued last year that the site was at risk if Britain left the EU without a trade deal. The company's plans to make batteries in the UK means that its cars will not face tariffs when exporting to the EU.

Nissan aims to cut the cost of making batteries by almost two thirds by 2028 as it eliminates cobalt from the process. The metal is expensive, difficult to obtain and tainted by human rights concerns as much of it is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The company plans a new system of recycling old EV batteries and refurbishing them where possible. It will hire 3,000 workers globally to press ahead with the technology.

Another front will be autonomous systems for cars – technology that many car makers have already spend billions of dollars on with varying results.

Nissan said it would start with “suitable” cities and rural areas to test self-driving capability.

Makoto Uchida, chief executive, did not specify how Nissan would fund the huge investment.

The company is on track to return to annual profit for the first time in three years.

Global sales of electric vehicles are expected to rise above 10m a year, up from about 1m now, over the next decade.

Volkswagen, the world’s second-biggest car maker after Toyota, is investing huge sums in a bid to overtake Tesla as the top EV maker.

Meanwhile others such as General Motors and Honda have committed to selling only EVs within in two decades.

Britain will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel-powered vehicles after 2030.

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