EV, Battery Factory Projects Fire Up
New electric car, battery and charging equipment projects are filling out the map of a global plug-in car industry. This week brought us a trio of manufacturing milestones from Renault, Nissan and ECOtality.
In Livonia, Michigan, charging infrastructure supplier ECOtality officially kicked off production of its Level 2 Blink charging stations at a plant run by partner Roush Manufacturing. Nissan said it has begun construction of a major new lithium-ion battery plant in Cacia, Portugal. And Nissan's ally Renault unveiled a six-year strategic plan that reiterates the company's commitment to electric vehicles and its intention to build them in France.
These announcements come at a time when, as the old 8-ball said, the future is cloudy on the question of just how many EVs we should realistically expect to see rolling off assembly lines in the next few years— and when steps toward large scale manufacturing mark important progress in the trek to bring electric vehicles into the mainstream. The Obama administration is standing by its goal to have at least one million plug-ins on the road by 2015 and recently predicted that the U.S. supply of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids will total more than 1.22 million from 2011 through 2015. Some in the auto industry, meanwhile, have argued that Obama's goal is likely out of reach.
Renault, which is partially owned by the French government, has a longstanding goal to lead the global electric vehicle market. Together with its Japanese affiliate Nissan, Renault said this week that it aims to reach production volumes of 500,000 electric vehicles per year by 2015. Although Renault expects to direct most of its production investments in the next few years to emerging markets such as Brazil, India and Russia, the company plans to keep most EV production efforts close to home. As much as 80 percent of all EVs carrying the Renault badge (the Kangoo Z.E. and Zoe Z.E., for example) by 2015 will be built in France, Automotive News Europe reports. By 2016, the Renault-Nissan Alliance aims to sell a total of 1.5 million electric vehicles.
In the belly of at least one Renault-Nissan electric model—the Fluence Z.E.—will be batteries produced at Nissan's new plant in Cacia, Portugal. Nissan began construction of the facility today on land belonging to a Renault gearbox assembly plant. The plant is slated to begin cranking out batteries in December 2012, reaching a total capacity of 50,000 units per year. Along with larger battery facilities in Flins, France and Sunderland, United Kingdom, the Cacia plant will enable Renault-Nissan to roll out EVs in Europe "on an unprecedented scale," Nissan chief operating officer Toshiyuki Shiga said in a statement today.
ECOtality, meanwhile, aims to be the go-to charge point provider for these plug-in models and more. The company, which recently moved its headquarters to San Francisco from Scottsdale, Arizona, is the project manager of the huge, federally funded charging infrastructure buildout known as The EV Project. ECOtality's Blink networked charging stations began rolling off the assembly line at an old auto factory in Michigan a few weeks ago, according to a spokesperson, and the company held a ribbon-cutting ceremony there on Friday.
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