Just recently, I came back from a visit to Nissan’s headquarters to talk to them about the Leaf. While there I was lucky enough to get a tour of their battery manufacturing facility in Smyrna, Tennessee. Here are some surprising facts I learned, along with a video of their whole process:
1. The facility has the capacity to build 200,000 batteries per year for vehicles, but is not operating at full capacity (yet!).
We toured around the warehouse, with a large clean room in the middle, stopping at various spots through all the processes of the batteries and even saw little golf cart-like vehicles driving around. It was a big building, but that’s what is required to build so many batteries. The actual square footage is almost 500,000 sq ft!
2. The facility employs around 1,000 people.
Although a lot of the processes are automated, there are still a bunch of workers overseeing the machines and inspecting the batteries. We saw many of them in action, both handling the machines and the batteries themselves.
3. It takes quite a long period of time to produce a battery from scratch.
There is a lot of testing, charging, discharging, heating, cooling, and ageing that happens over several weeks in order for the battery to be ready. And not every day are they producing batteries. Unfortunately, while I was there they didn’t have any batteries in the clean room actually being assembled because they were waiting on a shipment of materials. But I still got to see all the machines of the clean room from a couple different windows.
4. They do a lot of recycling.
There were bins of materials labeled for recycling—everything from cardboard boxes used for shipping things to the scraps of metals left over from producing the batteries. For many of these materials there are financial motivations to recycle, but they assured me on the tour they are doing everything possible to recycle everything they can.
5. They track their progress and strive for the most efficient battery production facility possible.
There is a board of data as soon as you walk into the manufacturing facility that measures a lot of different factors including safety of the workers, worker retention, water consumption, energy consumption, and even the related greenhouse gas emissions per battery. The emphasis on this presentation of data was obvious and they are proud to keep the facility safe and functioning as efficiently as possible. It’s a constant reminder to everyone that enters that they are striving for excellence.
If you’re interested in more details about the process check out Transport Evolved’s blog series on their tour of the battery facility.
Finally, here’s the video from Nissan that shows some of the employees in action—building those batteries!