Nissan Americas will manufacture electric motors for its electric vehicle, the Nissan LEAF, at its powertrain plant in Decherd, Tenn. The automaker said it will install a new assembly line to produce 150,000 electric motors annually at the site by early 2013, following a loan from the U.S. Dept. of Energy Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Program. The cost of the expansion was not released.
"Nissan's Tennessee operations are paving the way to a zero-emission future for everyone," stated Bill Krueger, vice chairman of Nissan Americas. "By delivering motors for the first mass-produced electric vehicles manufactured in the United States, our Decherd plant will play a vital role in making zero-emission mobility a reality for American consumers."
The Nissan LEAF is a five-door midsized electric hatchback that is advertised as a “zero emission” vehicle: the name is an acronym for “Leading, Environmentally friendly, Affordable Family car.” U.S. EPA states the car (which has been available in the U.S. since late last year) has a fuel economy equivalent to 99 miles per gallon. The automaker plans to begin assembling the vehicles at its plant in Smyrna, Tenn., late in 2012.
The DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Incentive Program (ATVM) lends to automakers and automotive parts manufacturers to cover the cost of “reequipping, expanding, or establishing manufacturing facilities … to produce advanced technology vehicles or qualified components, and for associated engineering integration costs.”
The Department arranged a $1.4-billion loan to Nissan North America in March, to retool the Smyrna plant to assemble all-electric cars, in addition to current Nissan vehicles, and to build “an advanced battery manufacturing facility.” A Nissan spokesman confirmed the electric motor assembly line will be funded from the same loan.
A lithium-ion battery plant is under construction and will start up late next year.
In March DOE indicated that loan would establish up to 1,300 jobs. Nissan indicates the new electric motor assembly line will create up to 90 new jobs.
The Smyrna plant currently assembles the Nissan Altima, Nissan Maxima, Nissan Xterra, Nissan Frontier, and Nissan Pathfinder, at a total volume of 550,000 annually.
The Decherd plant produces engines and components for Nissan vehicles built in North America, including 192,000 cast aluminum engine blocks and 1.1 million forged steel crankshafts.
The new electric motor assembly line will occupy 100,000 sq.-ft. of available floor space in the Decherd plant. New equipment to be installed includes wire winding machines, magnetization and magnet insertion equipment, varnishing and hot press equipment, and testing equipment.
Earlier this year Nissan designated its aluminum foundry in Melbourne, Australia, as the sole manufacturer of critical cast components for the Nissan LEAF. The assignment calls for an estimated 265,000 components per year by late 2013, including inverter cases, inverter water jackets, water jacket covers, and a fourth, unidentified component. The components will be produced using new casting technologies developed by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Centre for Applied Special Technology (CAST) Co-operative Research Centre (CRC).