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Nissan launches EV battery manufacturing in Smyrna plant

Nissan has launched production in its new battery plant in Smyrna, Tenn. The plant, which is making battery components for the ramp-up of production of the 2013 Nissan LEAF early next year, is located adjacent to Nissan’s existing vehicle assembly plant in Tennessee, which itself has been retooled to accommodate production of the Nissan LEAF.

Combined, the construction of the battery plant and modification of the Smyrna manufacturing facility represent an investment of up to $1.7 billion when built to full capacity. The project is supported by a US Department of Energy (DOE) loan for up to $1.4 billion, issued as part of the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, program authorized by Congress as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. (Earlier post.)

The facility is capable of expanding to produce modules for up to 200,000 battery packs annually depending on market demand. Those batteries can serve as the power source for the Nissan LEAF and for future vehicles that could be added to the portfolio, Nissan said.

Since December 2010, Nissan has delivered more than 18,000 LEAFs to US customers and more than 46,000 worldwide.

Technicians at Smyrna prepare equipment to unload an electrode mother roll in the unpacking room. Click to enlarge.

Each battery pack consists of 192 cells contained in 48 separate modules. One module contains four 33 Ah cells; the battery pack has total capacity of 24 kWh.

Each cell is a laminated structure. The electrodes arrive as a “mother roll” that is cut into smaller rolls to be dried thoroughly, cut to to correct size, and stacked as layers of anode-separator-cathode. The layers are connected by tabs that are welded, and then the stacked sheets are sealed in an aluminum foil material, thus creating the cell.

Cells travel down a conveyor following completion of the aging process. Click to enlarge.

After lamination, the cells are injected with electrolyte, then aged to allow the cell chemistry to form properly. After final testing, they are trimmed to final size, and charged and tested.

The cells are then mounted in the module which is rigidly secured into the pack. It is then encased in a steel structure that is sealed to protect the components from hazards such as water, fire and impact from a collision.

The battery pack is located under the floorboards, which allows for more cabin space and lowers the LEAF’s center of gravity. This design results in better handling of the vehicle, and it adds another layer of protection to the battery pack.

Assembling a battery pack at Smyrna. Click to enlarge.

Because of the compact cell design and layout structure, the battery pack also produces less heat overall, Nissan says. Rather than a liquid-based cooling system, the LEAF battery uses a convection-style cooling system where heat is transferred first from the cells to the modules and then to the mounting structure. Next it moves to the battery pack case and dissipates into ambient air. By not having a liquid-based cooling system, the vehicle weighs less, and the battery system is less complex.

The LEAF battery management system continuously monitors conditions, and the battery controller calculates the maximum output and remaining capacity based on battery pack voltage and current, individual module temperatures, cell voltage and bypass current.

The battery management system is able to optimize conditions to provide power on demand, and if necessary, it will respond to unexpected and extreme conditions by going to failsafe mode or in extreme cases, by completely shutting down. Once battery data comes through the battery controller, it is then transmitted to the vehicle controller, which directs the Nissan LEAF’s motor power.

The first batteries produced at the plant have completed the required aging process and are now ready to receive their first charge.

Click to enlarge.

The Nissan LEAF is manufactured on the same line as Altima and Maxima so volume can readily be adjusted among the vehicles to meet demand. The 2013 model-year Nissan LEAF will receive a number of technological advancements and feature changes, which will be announced closer to the vehicle’s on-sale date in early 2013, Nissan said.

The recent growth of Nissan’s US manufacturing plants is part of a strategy to localize core-model production. By 2015, Nissan aims to have 85% of all Nissan and Infiniti products that are sold in the United States produced in North America. Nissan, which is in the middle of a product blitz launching five key models in 15 months, will report record sales for 2013 following a year of significant new vehicle introductions, such as the all-new 2013 Altima, Sentra and Pathfinder.



The just announced 2013 Japanese Leaf specs show no increase in battery density and a reduction of about 175 pounds in weight which results in a slight increase in range. I am told the U.S. battery will be built to the Japanese specs which is somewhat disappointing as there was speculation Nissan would increase the density of the basic cells and thus the range of the car.

The energy density of the current cells is 140 kw/kg and the capacity of the whole battery is 240 kw/h; some have stated there would be a 10 to 15 percent increase per year in battery density as the battery technology progresses.

If this progression held true, the same physical sized Leaf battery would have a capacity of 288 kw/h and a battery density of 168 kw/kg. What happened Nissan?


The generalisation that energy density increases a x amount per year is misleading in my view.
That may be the sum result, but it occurs, if it occurs, in discrete steps.
Getting higher density means switching chemistry, or introducing substantial improvements in the old one.

So, for example, if Nissan switched to one of the NMC chemistries you might be talking about a 50% increase.
If that happened in 4-5 years you might be talking about an 8-10% increase per annum, but putting it that way does not throw light on it, but obscures what happened, which is that a new chemistry enabled a big jump.

Thomas Lankester

As well as the weight reduction, real world range should also benefit from the new heat pump system, replacing the resistive heating of the current model.


As EV needs rampup and costs fall, this US plant can serve the world.

These cells should be adaptable to E bikes, cycles, renewable storage, (golf carts, garden tractors, ....what limits..)


General question: A person buys a Leaf in 2013, five years later there are better batteries. Presumably the new batteries would have different volts/amps. Anyone have a feel for how the current car would fit in with the new battery designs. Would there be a fix for switching to the new batteries?


matt, this is another flexibility plus of electricity.

If there were a significant change in cell chemistry and output voltage, just adjust the number of series cell connections to match the EV motor voltage required.

Higher energy cells would mean; fewer to buy or more range.


Consumers would prefer standardization in batteries for EVs much like D cells for your flashlight. That way an after market can develop for battery replacement without having to go back to the car maker.


Standardized, modular plug-in car batteries, could solve this problem. Improved plug-in connectors, module standard shape & size would also be required but it is not impossible to do.

It should also be possible to start with a minimum number of modules and add more at a later date to increase e-range if required.

The aviation industry has done it with most instrument-electronic modules many decades ago.


"..standardization in batteries for EVs.." may need to be established by the GreenCarCongressCommenter's Association.


Nissan is not interested in upgrading old cars, they would prefer to sell you a new one.. but it is possible that replacement packs will be available with the same form factor, same voltages but higher capacity. Most likely they will just sell modules and a third party rebuilds the packs.


Third party after market could rebuild packs and new software could make chargers work with new chemistry.

My point is, people keep talking about "economies of scale" bringing down the cost of batteries. Well standards are one way to get those economies going before and after initial sale.


It too soon to establish those standards.. batteries will change a lot in the coming decades. I guess the module size and connectors could be standardized but voltages and charging profiles may change enough that a software update might not handle it. Changing the size of the lithium-ion cell is fairly easy to do.


Whether a software update could change charge profiles is a matter of design, but that misses the point. Too soon? When is it the right time for standards? I think the sooner the better.


" Too soon? When is it the right time for standards? I think the sooner the better." agreed.

Standards could lower costs and ripple through battery production equipment, besides end use. It's a basic of the industrial revolution.


kelly is right...standardization and associated mass production is and has been the largest contributor to lower production cost. Electrified vehicle manufacturers know that and they should support it more actively, unless......?

Bob Wallace

Large volumes of cell production, that's important.

Packaging is less important. The size and shape of the outside box. Connecting wire size. Rating of circuit breakers.

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