Nissan wins electric-car loan

The US Department of Energy has provided auto giant Nissan North America with a loan of $1.4bn (£0.87bn) to help the company modify its Smyrna, Tennessee manufacturing plant to produce the Nissan LEAF – a zero-emission, all-electric vehicle – and the lithium-ion battery packs to power it.

The loan was issued as part of the US Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, a $25bn programme authorised by the US Congress as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

The programme is designed to accelerate the development of vehicles and technologies that increase US energy independence, create cleaner means of transportation and stimulate the US economy.

The loan will result in the creation of up to 1,300 jobs when the plants are operating at full capacity.

Modification of the Smyrna manufacturing plant, which will begin later this year, includes a new battery plant and changes in the existing structure for electric-vehicle assembly.

When fully operational, the vehicle-assembly plant will have the capacity to build 150,000 Nissan LEAF electric cars per year and the new plant will have an annual capacity of 200,000 batteries.

The Nissan LEAF, a five-passenger sedan, will be available for private and fleet customers.

It is being launched in the US, Japan and Europe in December.