Electric vehicles Nissan Leaf gets solar power

Nissan is going solar at its some of its Tennessee facilities as the automaker announced today it will be installing clean energy powered charging stations designed to charge its Leaf electric car.

Nissan North America, Inc. has begun installation of 30 solar-assisted charging stations at the Smyrna Vehicle Assembly Plant and the Nissan Americas headquarters in Franklin, Tenn. The 30 chargers at the two Tennessee facilities mark the latest in a long line of dedicated investments totaling $3.5 billion over the course of Nissan’s statewide, 30-year presence.

The advanced solar chargers, which will be operational for use by Nissan employees and visitors by July 1, are designed to charge the Nissan LEAF, the world’s first affordable, all electric car designed for the mass market. The Nissan LEAF debuted globally in December 2010, with Tennessee as a key launch market. Nissan soon will build the Nissan LEAF and the batteries that power it at its Smyrna manufacturing complex. The advanced, lithium-ion battery plant is 75-percent complete with an expected operational date of late next year.

“Tennessee is Nissan’s home in the Americas region,” said Carlos Tavares, chairman, Nissan Americas. “These solar-assisted charging stations demonstrate our dedication to a zero-emissions society, and our dedication to bringing innovation to our home in Tennessee. Nissan in the coming year will expand our manufacturing presence, enhance our philanthropic efforts and make new additions to our headquarters operations, all in Tennessee.”

The charging stations illustrate the ability to reduce the impact to the electrical grid through the use of solar power and energy storage. They employ the same lithium-ion battery cells that also power the Nissan LEAF, an innovation that allows Nissan to study the battery’s storage capacity as well as demonstrate the second-life use for lithium-ion batteries beyond their use in automotive applications.

Nissan is working with the U.S. Dept. of Energy, which is funding the stations through a matching grant, as well as Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Tennessee Valley Authority, with which Nissan will share usage and technical data from the solar chargers for further study.

Nissan In Tennessee

Nissan’s statewide commitment to Tennessee began in 1981 with the start of construction for the company’s Smyrna Vehicle Assembly Plant. The first pick-up truck rolled off the line in Smyrna in 1983, with the Sentra compact car joining the assembly plant two years later. The plant expanded in 1992 to accommodate the production Nissan’s volume-leading Altima sedan, which continues to be produced in Smyrna today, alongside the Maxima sedan, Pathfinder SUV, Xterra SUV, and Frontier pick-up truck. Today, the Smyrna plant has grown to 9.4 million sq.-ft., represents an investment of $2.5 billion, has an annual capacity of 550,000 units, and has produced almost 9 million cars and trucks.

Nissan plans to begin producing the Nissan LEAF in Smyrna by the end of next year, with capacity for 150,000 units annually. Production of the Nissan Rogue crossover also will move from Japan to Smyrna. The Infiniti JX, an all-new Infiniti family crossover vehicle, also will be built in Smyrna starting in 2012. These moves are part of Nissan’s commitment for 85 percent of all vehicles sold in the United States to be produced in the North American region by 2015.

In 1997, Nissan began operations at its powertrain plant in nearby Decherd, Tenn., to build engines and transaxles for Smyrna-built vehicles. The 1.2 million sq.-ft. facility represents a $682.7 million investment and now also includes engine casting and forging operations. The plant has the capacity to produce 950,000 engines, 1.1 million crankshaft forgings and 192,000 cylinder-block castings annually.

Nissan’s U.S. headquarters operations moved to Middle Tennessee in 2006 from its former location in Los Angeles. In 2008, Nissan dedicated its Nissan Americas facility in Franklin, an all-new facility that is responsible for Nissan’s operations throughout the Americas. Nissan recently announced that its advanced planning group, a division of its product planning operations, would move to operate at Nissans Americas. The team’s transition currently is under way.

Nissan late next year will inaugurate its advanced lithium-ion battery plant, which is located adjacent to the Smyrna Vehicle Assembly Plant. Construction is approximately 75 percent complete and scheduled to be finished by late summer. Nissan then will start installing the battery manufacturing equipment inside the plant and will be capable of producing lithium-ion batteries beginning in late 2012. The plant will have the capacity to produce 200,000 batteries annually. The 475,000 sq.-ft. battery facility will be a U.S. manufacturing center of excellence for clean transportation solutions, providing the power source for 150,000 all-electric Nissan LEAFs annually.

Corporate Citizenship

Throughout its time in middle Tennessee, Nissan has made involvement in the local community a top priority. For nearly three decades, the company’s Smyrna manufacturing facility has supported organizations such as Boys and Girls Clubs, United Way and Christmas from the Heart, a program that helps local children, seniors, veterans and the disabled celebrate the holidays. Also during this time, thousands of Nissan employee volunteers have supported blood drives, education outreach and disaster relief – such as rebuilding efforts following devastating tornadoes in Murfreesboro, Tenn., in 2008.

In just the past five years, Nissan has donated more than $5 million to Tennessee non-profit organizations such as Second Harvest, Nashville Symphony, Frist Center for Visual Arts, Nashville Public Television, Oasis Center, Harpeth River Watershed Association and Business Education Partnership Foundation. The company has provided both cash and in-kind contributions, with an emphasis on education, humanitarian causes and the environment. In addition, Nissan employees are represented on local not-for-profit boards such as United Way, Nashville Symphony, American Red Cross and the Tennessee Minority Supplier Development Council. In 2010, the company donated $300,000 to support relief efforts following historic floods in the greater Nashville area, and was recognized as the “Corporate Philanthropist of the Year” from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Nashville Chapter (AFP).

Nissan’s community outreach includes an annual $1 million partnership between Nissan and Habitat for Humanity International. Nissan’s partnership with Habitat includes house sponsorships, Nissan vehicle donations, and support of Habitat’s disaster-relief initiatives and the Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter Work Project. Since 2006, Nissan employees have helped to build 30 homes across the U.S., including 15 Habitat houses in Tennessee.

The company’s environmental efforts helped it earn recognition as an ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2010 and 2011.

In the Americas, Nissan’s operations include automotive styling, engineering, consumer and corporate financing, sales and marketing, distribution and manufacturing. Nissan is dedicated to improving the environment under the Nissan Green Program and was recognized as an ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2010 and 2011.