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Nissan not shuttering Leaf EV battery plants, at least not yet

The big news on the electric vehicle front today is that Nissan is considering slowing down EV battery production in the US and UK and source all of Nissan's big packs come from Japan. Nissan may also buy some batteries from the Korean company LG Chem. This is apparently causing dissent within Nissan, but it follows what Alliance partner Renault is doing in the hunt for 180-mile EVs.

This change – officially denied by Nissan – raises a lot of questions here, since Nissan made a huge deal about building the Leaf pack in Tennessee a few years ago. In fact, the car's big price drop was due, in part, to localizing battery production. If the company is really going to give up on building the packs where it makes the cars, then does Nissan not see itself as being capable of producing an energy-dense battery cheap enough to compete with Tesla and its Gigafactory and GM (which, of course, has long worked with LG Chem on batteries)? Whatever Nissan decides, it needs to be ready to compete in a market that offers a $35,000, 200-mile car by 2017.

"We have not taken any decision whatsoever to modify battery sourcing allocation." – Renault-Nissan's Rachel Konrad

Nissan would not comment directly on the reported change, but Rachel Konrad, the Alliance's global director of communications and marketing told AutoblogGreen, "The Renault-Nissan Alliance remains 100 percent committed to its industry-leading EV program. This global commitment continues for the foreseeable future, and we have not taken any decision whatsoever to modify battery sourcing allocation. Nissan has no plans to impair its battery investments. Beyond that,we will not comment on speculation or anonymous sources, and as a matter of policy the Alliance does not confirm or deny procurement reviews."

There's a point-of-view where it doesn't matter where the batteries come from if the resulting EV is competitive, price-wise. Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn, after all, said during a recent Twizy test drive that the battery is a means, and the objective is the car. In the end, Nissan is saying it has no near-term or medium-term plan to shutter plants in US or UK and CEO Carlos Ghosn says, "What's important to us is that electric car performance fully meets customer expectations."

Whatever's going on, Ghosn has seen three top executives leave the Renault-Nissan family recently. Nissan chief planning officer Andy Palmer, Infiniti CEO Johan de Nysschen and Renault chief operating officer Carlos Tavares have all left in the last 13 months. These situations could be totally unrelated to electric vehicles (or even to each other), but some might smell blood in the water and so when Ghosn said recently that, "We're in the process of opening up battery sourcing to a range of suppliers," in reference to a question about Bollore, this was taken out of context, according to a source familiar with the conversation behind the Reuters interview that kicked off the speculation that Nissan was going to close some plants. For now, it appears that the Tennessee and Sunderland, UK Leaf battery plants will remain operational. We will be keeping our ears open for more information, though. Featured GalleryNissan Leaf Production Source

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