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Nissan to invest $17.6 billion over next five years on proprietary battery development

Powering the future: The drive for lithium
Powering the future: The drive for lithium 07:14

Nissan said Monday it is investing 2 trillion yen ($17.6 billion) over the next five years on developing a less expensive yet more powerful battery to boost its electric vehicle lineup.

Makoto Uchida, the Japanese automaker's chief executive, said 15 new electric vehicles will be available by fiscal 2030. Nissan Motor is aiming for a 50% "electrification" of the company's model lineup, under what Uchida called the "Nissan Ambition 2030" long-term plan. Electrified vehicles include hybrids and other kinds of environmentally friendly models other than just electric vehicles.

"Nissan will continue to evolve its lithium-ion battery technologies and introduce cobalt-free technology to bring the cost of battery packs ... by 2028," the company stated in a press release. With automakers pledging to soon make most of their vehicles electric, lithium demand is expected to increase as much as tenfold in the next decade.

Nissan's effort is focused mainly on electric vehicles to cut emissions and meet various customers' needs, said Uchida. Nissan also will reduce carbon emissions at its factories, he added.

Biden aims to boost sales of zero-emission vehicles 02:34

The company has been struggling to put the scandal of its former Chairman Carlos Ghosn behind it. Ghosn, who led Nissan for two decades, after he was sent to Japan by French alliance partner Renault, was arrested in Tokyo in 2018 on various financial misconduct charges.

Uchida made no mention of the scandal but referred to "past mistakes" he promised won't be repeated at Nissan.

Nissan's "electrification" rests on developing a new ASSB, or all solid state battery, that it categorized as "a breakthrough" for being cheaper and generating more power than batteries now in use.

That means electric powertrains can be more easily used in trucks, vans and other heavier vehicles because the batteries can be smaller. The ASSB will be in mass production by 2028, according to Nissan.

Goal of cost-parity with gas vehicles

The costs of electric vehicles will also fall thanks to the battery innovation to levels comparable with regular gasoline cars, Uchida said.

"Nissan has emerged from a crisis and is ready to make a new start," he said.

All top automakers, including Nissan's Japanese rival Toyota Motor Corp., are working on electric vehicles, amid growing concern over climate change and sustainability. Global consumers are also demanding more safety features.

Uchida said Nissan was hiring 3,000 engineers to strengthen its research, including digital technology for vehicles.

Nissan, based in Yokohama, Japan, has suffered recently from the computer chips shortage that's slammed all automakers because of lockdowns and other measures at chip factories to combat the coronavirus pandemic. A huge Nissan factory in Smyrna, Tennessee that employs 6,700 workers closed for two weeks in August due to computer chip shortages brought on by a coronavirus outbreak in Malaysia, the automaker said Tuesday.

The maker of the Infiniti luxury models, Leaf electric vehicle and Z sportscar is projecting a return to profitability for the fiscal year through March 2022 after racking up two straight years of losses.

President Biden pushes infrastructure deal in Detroit 10:04

The Build Back Better Act approved by House lawmakers last week contains substantial tax breaks for owners of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. 

The incentives go up as high as $12,500 and, perhaps equally important, could greatly simplify the process of getting an income tax credit for buying a car. The bill also would go a long way toward putting some electric vehicles on level ground with gas-powered cars on price. Experts say that could spur wider adoption of EVs — a key element of President Biden's plan to decarbonize the transportation sector.

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