TOKYO -- A year before it launches U.S. sales of its first electric family car, Nissan Motor Co. is developing a next-generation battery that will be lighter and less expensive.
Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said today that the new electric-vehicle battery is a few years off but will be smaller, lighter and less expensive than the lithium ion battery that will power the five-passenger Nissan Leaf when the car debuts late next year.
The Leaf battery will deliver about 100 miles on a complete charge.
Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on the eve of the Tokyo Motor Show, Ghosn said Nissan eventually could outsource batteries for its electric-vehicle program to independent suppliers. But for now, he said, the automaker wants to control battery development internally to control cost and production.
“If you want to be in control of the cost, you’d better be involved,” Ghosn said. “We want to make sure we can drive the battery where we want to go.”
This year, Nissan signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory to work together on future battery development. At the time, an Oak Ridge official said the federal lab thinks it can develop a battery capable of delivering 400 miles on a single charge.
Ghosn said Nissan’s batteries will be “an important profit center” in the future.
“We are ready to sell the battery to whoever is interested,” he said.
The company plans to construct a plant in Smyrna, Tenn., capable of producing 200,000 batteries a year.
In Japan, Nissan is developing and making batteries in a joint venture with electronics giant NEC Corp. and NEC Tokin Corp. The venture, called Automotive Energy Supply Corp., is building a plant in Japan that is initially expected to produce 13,000 lithium ion battery packs a year. The plant will have the installed capacity to make 65,000 battery packs annually.