Work has started on building a new manufacturing site in Smyrna, Tennessee, for Leaf EV production in the US.

The groundbreaking ceremony marked the start of construction of a manufacturing facility that will produce lithium-ion batteries for cars to be produced at Nissan’s vehicle assembly facility in Smyrna beginning in 2012.

EV and battery production will create up to 1,300 jobs when the plants are operating at full capacity. The battery plant, one of the largest of its type in North America at 1.3m sq ft at full capacity, will be capable of producing 200,000 batteries annually. It will be located adjacent to the vehicle assembly plant, which will be retooled to accommodate production of the Leaf and will be capable of producing 150,000 electric cars annually. 

Nissan Motor president Carlos Ghosn said: “Production of the Leaf and lithium-ion batteries in Smyrna brings the United States closer to its goal of energy independence, creates green jobs and helps sustain American manufacturing.”

Combined, the construction of the battery plant and modification of the Smyrna manufacturing facility to accommodate Leaf production will cost about US$1.7bn, which initially is being supported by a US Department of Energy loan for 80% of up to $1.4bn.

Nissan said that some 13,000 people have placed a reservation for the Leaf since 20 April. Sales start in the US, Japan and Europe in December, with more markets added from spring 2011. Initial cars will come from Japan.