Breaking Ground for the LEAF in Tennessee

If you look very carefully at that rendering above, you may discern that the vehicle in the front right is a Nissan LEAF.

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If you look very carefully at that rendering above, you may discern that the vehicle in the front right is a Nissan LEAF. That’s no coincidence, of course, because the rendering is to show the 1.3-million square foot vehicle battery assembly plant that Nissan broke ground for today in Smyrna, TN.

The lithium-ion battery plant, which is to be capable of producing 200,000 batteries per year at full production, will be supplying the Nissan vehicle assembly facility adjacent to it, wherein the Nissan LEAF will go into production in 2012. The assembly plant is presently being retooled to produce 150,000 electric cars per year.

All in, the battery plant and the retooling represent an investment of up to $1.7-billion. Of that, 80%, or up to $1.4-billion, is being supported by a $1.4-billion loan from the U.S. Department of Energy, part of the $25-billion program within the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

As Carlos Ghosn, president and CEO of Nissan Motor Co., put it, “Production of the Nissan LEAF and lithium-ion batteries in Smyrna brings the United States closer to its goal of energy independence, creates green jobs”—on the order of 1,300 jobs when both plants are up and running—“and helps sustain American manufacturing.”

So far, some 13,000 people in the U.S. have placed a reservation for the LEAF since the list opened on April 20. While some LEAFs are to be available in December 2010 (initial vehicle production is taking place in Oppama, Japan, and the batteries are being built in Zama, Japan), there a full market rollout planned by 2012, when the Smyrna plants are in production.

And it is likely there will be LEAFs in the parking lot.