China’s Envision plans massive expansion at Sunderland gigafactory battery plant


Envision AESC, the Chinese company behind the UK’s only “gigafactory” in Sunderland, is looking to expand the plant to produce batteries for hundreds of thousands of electric cars each year.

Zhang Lei, chief executive of Envision, told the Financial Times that the Sunderland facility’s annual capacity, which currently makes batteries for the Nissan LEAF, would eventually rise to 38 gigawatt hours (GWh).

Last summer, Nissan announced that it will invest GBP423mln in a new electric vehicle (EV) hub in Sunderland, with Envision investing GBP450mln in expanding the capacity at its battery plant to 9GWh.

Production from the first phase of expansion at Envision’s Sunderland plant is due to start in 2024.

Zhang also told the FT that Envision is looking to spin off its global electric vehicle battery division as it expands in Europe.

“It could be soon,” he said. “It’s all on the board decision. We have a very international board.”

Envision’s US$2.4bn gigafactory in France, in partnership with Renault, is also due to open in 2024, and Zhang said the company is holding discussions with global automakers to supply batteries from the UK and French sites.

Envision also has battery plants in Japan, the US and China, and is looking at locations for new gigafactories in Europe, according to Zhang.

He said the company is also considering investing in battery materials such as lithium to secure supplies.

“We are planning that — we are talking to a few companies,” he said.

The Sunderland gigafactory will be completely powered by renewable energy and Zhang said securing supplies of renewable energy was key for lower-cost battery production.

The company has pledged to be carbon neutral across its operations by the end of 2022 and in its supply chain by 2028.

“If you can use the cheaper green energy, you can secure your energy cost for the next 20 years with lower prices than fossil fuels,” he said.


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