by Michael Graham Richard, Ottawa, Canada on 01.29.10
Photos: Nissan, DOE
About 1,300 New Jobs at Smyrna Factory
Steven Chu announced that the U.S. Department of Energy agreed to loan $1.4 billion to Nissan for the modification of their Smyrna plant in Tennessee. This will help Nissan start production of the LEAF electric car (coming to British Columbia in 2011 and the rest of the world in 2012) and build an advanced battery manufacturing facility.
Dr. Chu said: "This is an investment in our clean energy future. It will bring the United States closer to reducing our dependence on foreign oil and help lower carbon pollution. We are committed to making strides to revitalize the American auto industry and supporting the development of clean energy vehicles."
Nissan's goal is to make about 150,000 LEAFs and 200,000 battery packs a year in Smyrna once production is up to speed. This should create about 1,300 jobs.
In September 2009, Ford received a $5.9 billion loan, and just last week Tesla's $465 million loan with the DOE was finalized.
It's Finally Starting to Happen
Getting electric cars to market is taking longer than a lot of people would like, but manufacturing on this scale is long and expensive. It seems like a couple years ago, everybody was coming up with electric concept cars but almost nobody was actually taking actions to commercialize them. Now we seem to be entering a new phase: Companies are working hard to find financing, build/retool factories, make partnerships with battery companies or bring that expertise in-house, etc. Certainly a step in the right direction, though widespread adoption of EV will still depend a lot on oil prices in the next 5-10 years, and on battery technology improvements.
Once again, a carbon tax (revenue neutral would be best) would help make this happen much faster. As long as people don't pay directly for the cost of air pollution and global warming, the playing field won't be level with clean(er) technologies.
More Nissan LEAF Electric Car
Nissan Working on New Battery to Double the Leaf's Range by 2015
Nissan LEAF: Instead of Engine Choices, People Might Have Battery Choices
Nissan LEAF Electric Car to Come to British Columbia First (in 2011)