Sunderland’s car battery ‘gigafactory’ is set for a huge expansion

The Envision plant in Sunderland is due for a huge expansion, according to its Chinese owners. The move will make the facility, which manufactures batteries for electric vehicles including the Nissan Leaf, one of the biggest of its kind in Europe.

Envision say that the annual capacity of the plant will eventually rise to 38 gigawatt hours, far surpassing the 11GWh they announced back in July as part of a deal with Nissan.

Demand for electric cars is set to surge as petrol and diesel vehicles are being phased out. Under current plans, the sale of new petrol or diesel cars will be banned in the UK by 2030 – with similar policies in place in other countries.

Envision CEO Lei Zhang said the Shanghai-based company was in talks with global carmakers about using the Sunderland plant, along with another in France, to supply their car factories, in an interview with the Financial Times.

The Faraday Institution, a government-backed think-tank, has calculated that the country will need an annual battery output of about 140GWh a year by 2040 to sustain a country where everybody drives electric vehicles.

Around the world there are plans to build 247 battery plants with a total output of more than 4,600 GWh. The majority of these plants are being built by Asian companies, with the US and Europe seen as lagging behind.

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