Electric Britain gets moving

Posted on 18 Mar 2010 by The Manufacturer

The UK’s bid to become a leader in low carbon industries has been given a boost today with Nissan choosing its Sunderland plant to produce its electric LEAF model in Europe and Ford choosing the UK for production of environmentally friendly engines.

Together, the announcements entail almost £2bn of private investment into UK automotive with £400m in grants and loan guarantees from government. The news follows last week’s news from General Motors of a £1.7bn investment in its European operations with £300m in loan guarantees from Whitehall.

Nissan will produce around 50,000 LEAFs per year at the Sunderland plant in a move which will “safeguard or create” 550 jobs. The model will be launched globally in March next year and production will begin in Britain in 2013. It will be able to run for 100 miles between charges, will have a top speed of 90 miles per hour and will be able to be charged up to 80 per cent in just 20 minutes via a 240 volt connection. It will be priced from £10,000.

The Japanese company, which last year chose Sunderland to produce 60,000 24 kilowatt batteries for its electric cars, is investing £420m into its British operations for the new green lines. Government is pitching in £20.7m. The Sunderland plant currently employs around 4,000.

Ford meanwhile is investing £1.5 billion in creating a new generation of environmentally friendly engines with Government providing £380 million in loan through its Automotive Assistance Programme (AAP).

The investment will be spread across six projects at Ford’s Dagenham, Southampton and Bridgend plants as well as its research and development centre at Dunton, Essex.

This move will reportedly safeguard 2,500 jobs.
At Ford’s Diesel Engine Centre in Dagenham this morning, Lord Mandelson said: “We can’t afford not to make this and these and investments. The biggest antidote to a deficit is growth and these jobs would be lost overseas if we’re not at the forefront of the LCV technologies.”

Of Nissan’s decision he said: “This investment is a fantastic vote of confidence in the Sunderland plant and its excellent workforce.

“Today’s news from Nissan, with support from government, shows that by working together we can achieve our aim of making the UK a world-leader in ultra-low carbon vehicles.”