Nissan is making plans to spend the money from the low cost loan from the government to re-tool the plant in Smyrna, Tennessee (Source: Nissan Plans Both Electric, Hybrid Cars at U.S. Plant (Update2) - Bloomberg.com). The plant employs 3,900 people and its current capacity is 550,000 cars and light trucks annually, including the hybrid Altima sedan.
The electric vehicles will be phased in “to avoid under-utilizing the plant while the market is developing,” said Senior Vice President Andy Palmer.
Perhaps they are talking about building their new hybrids here in the US? We'll have to wait and see about that. Nissan has been focusing in on the electric vehicle, leaving hybrids to Toyota and Honda. With the recent spike in hybrid sales, however, Nissan is showing a renewed interest in developing their own hybrid technology.
Nissan builds and sells a Hybrid Altima, but uses Toyota hybrid technology to do it. They have plans to sell an Infiniti Hybrid in the coming years, but an electric vehicle is also due.
Nissan will spend the $1.6 Billion on the plant to build electric vehicles along with hybrids, plus they want to build a plant to create a Li-Ion battery factory next door. The battery factory will be set to make packs for up to 200,000 cars a year, although Nissan expects the demand for electric and plug-ins to be much lower at first.
With an expected demand to be around 60,000 plug-ins and 7,500 electric vehicles expected in 2011-2013, mostly due to the new California rules, Nissan doesn't want the new plant to be underutilized, thus the dual nature planned for the re-tooled plant.
"I would suggest that the EV market in the U.S. will basically be the California regulatory requirement, plus perhaps 20,000 units," Anderman said. "As long as the gasoline price is under $5 a gallon, there’s no real market for EVs."
Another interesting tidbit from the article. Lithium-Ion battery packs capable of moving a vehicle 100 miles was estimated to cost $30,000. That cost is expected to drop rapidly over the next few years down to $15,000. (Estimate was made by Menahem Anderman, president of Advanced Automotive Batteries, a consulting firm in Oregon House, California)
That seems high to me, as other estimates I've seen have put battery packs at $10,000 for the new Chevy Volt. But that may be because the Volt is only expected to travel 40 miles on a full charge, with the gas motor recharging the batter after that.