Nissan Europe and partners form battery R&D venture

  • 05-Feb-2016 04:24 EST
Nissan02-16 LEAF Sunderland.jpg

A new 30-kW·h Leaf rolls off the EV line recently at Nissan's Sunderland plant.

Nissan Europe, together with commercial and academic partners, is embarking on a near-£20 m (about $29 m) consortium project to pave the way for future generation EV batteries. The work is supported by a £9.7 m ($14.5) grant from the U.K. Advanced Propulsion Center (APC).

Additionally, Nissan has pledged to produce what it terms “a future generation of EV batteries” at its Sunderland, U.K. lithium-ion battery plant. The commitment will see a £26.5 m ($39.7 m) further investment in the facility, which is claimed to be the largest of its type in Europe.

Gareth Dunsmore, Director Zero Emissions Business Unit at Nissan Europe, based at Rolle, Switzerland, said: “We continue our efforts to improve EV batteries with the ultimate aim of offering a driving range that is comparable to conventional fuel-powered vehicles.”

Together with Nissan, the new consortium includes Hyperdrive Innovation, Warwick Manufacturing Group, University of Warwick, Newcastle University and Zero Carbon Futures. The group will work jointly on central areas of battery development, covering pilot projects, product diversification, and process improvement.

Nissan's current battery-cell development and supply partner for production vehicles is Automotive Energy Supply Corp. (AESC), a joint venture between the Nissan Motor Co., NEC Corp. and NEC Tokin

Nissan recently launched the Leaf 30-kW·h model in Europe, following its U.S. debut. The upgraded Leaf has a claimed range of up to 250 km (155 mi), which is a 25% increase in range between full charges over the previous model. The car is capable of being charged via 3-phase, 400-V fast charge, along with standard home current.

Said Dunsmore: “The 30 kW·h battery combines our most advanced technologies. With an improved laminated structure for the lithium ion batteries, we successfully increased the battery capacity from 24 kW·h to 30 kW·h whilst maintaining the battery pack size." Battery weight increased by 21 kg (9.5 lb).

Nissan engineers described the key to the new pack's higher performance as an update to its internal design and cell chemistry. A new cell layout in the pack, and the introduction of carbon, nitrogen and magnesium to the electrodes improve performance. The automaker's confidence in the performance and reliability of the new 30-kW·h battery earned it an eight year, 100,000-mi (160,000-km) warranty.

Asked what “a future generation of EV batteries” might mean, Dunsmore would not comment. Nor would he comment on whether alternatives to lithium-ion were on Nissan’s or its partners’ agendas.

EV production at Sunderland began in 2013 following a £420 m ($630 m) investment in the battery plant and manufacturing facilities for the Leaf. The plant is one of three global Nissan battery production sites. Battery modules are also produced for the Nissan e-NV200 electric van, which is assembled in Barcelona.

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