North East is UK’s First Specialist Region For Low Carbon Vehicles

Nissan has announced that it will make batteries for its forthcoming electric vehicles in Sunderland.

The rechargeable lithium-ion battery plant, Nissan’s European Centre of Excellence for Battery Manufacturing, comes as the Prime Minister announced the region would become the UK’s first Low Carbon Economic Area specialising in ultra-low carbon vehicles.

The battery investment makes Nissan Sunderland a good contender for manufacture of the group’s new “greener” electric vehicles.

Nissan will invest more than £200m over the next five years in the new battery factory in Sunderland, and the company will also build a new plant in Portugal.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “Nissan’s investment in a new battery plant and its hope to start producing electric vehicles here in Sunderland is great news for the local economy, creating up to 350 direct jobs and creating and safeguarding hundreds more in the associated supply chain.

“This investment is also hugely significant as we embark on Building Britain’s Future, our plan for recovery and beyond powered by low carbon, high technology industries, products and services.

“Sunderland could now be a strong contender to produce electric vehicles for Nissan in Europe, and we will continue to work with Nissan to ensure this happens.”

The Government is working with Nissan on supporting this investment by offering grants and loan guarantees, including support through the Automotive Assistance Programme.

Low Carbon Economic Areas (LCEAs) were introduced in the Government’s Low Carbon Industrial Strategy. They aim to draw together national, local and regional agencies to focus support on accelerating the growth of low carbon industries, skills base and supply chain.

The North East LCEA, led by One North East, will focus on supporting the transformation of automotive industry, providing support for innovation and demonstration, skills training and clustering of manufacturing.

Business Secretary Peter Mandelson said: “The North East has distinguished itself as the first specialised region for ultra-low carbon vehicles. This is good news not just for the North East, but for the whole of the UK, helping to attract foreign investment and securing UK’s place as a global leader in high-tech manufacturing and automotive industries.

“The collaboration between local businesses, universities and colleges will create a hub of expertise to boost innovation and accelerate business growth in this important area of ‘green’ industry.”

As part of the Low Carbon Economic Area, the Government intends to establish:

ˇ A training centre – the first to specialise in the manufacture and maintenance of ultra-low carbon vehicles. Government is in discussions with national companies such as the AA about how the centre can help update skills to keep up with the growing use of ultra-low carbon vehicles.

ˇ A Research & Development Centre – serving as a home for research from all five local universities bringing together fundamental and applied research in ultra-low carbon vehicle technology and use.

ˇ An open access test track to trial the use of new technologies.

ˇ One NorthEast is also looking at options to reopen all or part of the Leamside Rail Line, which would help improve access to the Port of Tyne to boost imports and exports in the region.

ˇ Over the next two years 750 charging points will be installed in a range of locations in the NorthEast, including supermarkets, shopping centres, public transport installations, hospitals, universities, public buildings and domestic and business premises. The first points are currently being installed in Newcastle and Gateshead.

One North East chairman Margaret Fay said: “One North East welcomes this visionary announcement. It confirms the North East of England’s growing role at the forefront of the low-carbon economy and cements the region’s position as a leading location for electric vehicle development in Europe.

“The North East’s Low Carbon Economic Area will be extremely important for the future of the automotive industry in the region and will enable One North East to attract further investment related to electric vehicles and their infrastructure.”

This Low Carbon Economic Area for Ultra-Low Carbon Vehicles will encompass companies with existing low carbon expertise including Nissan and Smith Electric Vehicles. It will also help existing companies move into advanced and low carbon manufacturing.

Low Carbon Economic Areas (LCEAs) were announced as part of the Government’s Low Carbon Industrial Strategy on 15 July, 2009. The first LCEA is based in the South West of England, specialising in wave and tidal technology. Further LCEAs are expected to be announced over the next six months.

LCEAs bring together RDAs and other regional and local partners to accelerate low carbon economic activity in areas which already have an existing competitive advantage. Agencies across the LCEA will work to develop the area’s low carbon economic strength, skills base and help build effective supply chains. They will bring together local, regional and national policy levers including infrastructure development, planning policies, skills provision and investment. One purpose of LCEAs is to encourage collaboration and we anticipate others will be interested in establishing LCEAs in ultra-low carbon vehicles.

The proposed Training Centre will focus on low carbon and sustainable manufacturing.  It is hoped that at least 60 businesses will be supported by activities carried out at the Centre, including large manufacturers, supply chain and SMEs. The training centre will recognise the need for “green collar” jobs and skills required for the future.

The open access Test Track will be available to vehicle and related technology developers, and is capable of accommodating different types of vehicles – not just cars.

The Research and Development Centre, which will be the home to research from the Universities of Newcastle, Durham, Sunderland, Northumbria and Teesside. The R&D Centre will look at all aspects of low carbon technology, with projects including the understanding of power consumption and charging patterns, the range extension of all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, and energy storage.

The LCEA will help develop related industry and will complement efforts in nearby cities and towns to develop and use ultra-low carbon vehicles. Over the next two years 750 charging points will be installed in a range of locations in the NorthEast, including supermarkets, shopping centres, public transport installations, hospitals, universities, public buildings and domestic and business premises. The first points are currently being installed in Newcastle and Gateshead (Tesco is already involved in trialling innovative charging solutions).

Lord Mandelson has also announced an extra 10,000 higher education places are being made available to universities this summer. The Government will pay the student support costs for full time undergraduate entrants to science, technology, engineering and maths subjects – areas which will equip young people with the skills they need for the jobs of the future.