This morning Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn was in Smyrna, Tennessee to break ground for the company's first lithium ion battery plant outside of Japan. The factory, adjacent to Nissan's existing vehicle assembly complex there, will have a capacity for 200,000 battery packs annually after it starts production in 2012. The packs will initially be used for the Nissan Leaf, which will be produced alongside the Altima and Maxima in Smyrna.
The assembly plant will have an initial capacity of 150,000 electric vehicles. Nissan has previously announced that it was willing to sell batteries to other automakers, which could help absorb the extra capacity. So far, no other automaker has announced its intention to use Nissan's batteries. At the Tokyo Motor Show, Ghosn announced that Nissan would also build a compact Inifinti EV and an electric version of the NV200 compact van. Either of those could be built in North America with Smyrna batteries. The battery plant and the assembly plant re-tooling are being funded from a $1.4 billion low interest loan that Nissan won from the Department of Energy in 2009.