Nissan aims for all-electric car sales in Europe by 2030
Photo courtesy of Nissan

Nissan aims for all-electric car sales in Europe by 2030

Despite the UK’s recent decision to delay the ban on new fossil-fuel powered cars, Japanese automaker Nissan remains steadfast in its commitment to produce only electric vehicles (EVs) in Europe by 2030.

Last month, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak extended the proposed ban on new petrol and diesel car sales to 2035. This decision faced criticism, especially from Ford Motor, which expressed concerns over the EV transition’s potential setbacks.

Makoto Uchida, president and CEO of Nissan, emphasised that electric vehicles powered by renewable energy are pivotal for achieving carbon neutrality, a core aspect of Nissan’s Ambition 2030 vision. The company’s commitment to this transformative journey is underscored by the unveiling of the ‘Concept 20-23’ model and the launch of a new autonomous driving test in Europe.

Under Nissan Ambition 2030, the automaker plans to introduce 27 electrified vehicles globally, including 19 EVs by 2030. The company is also pioneering cobalt-free technology and all-solid-state batteries (ASSB) to reduce EV battery costs and charging times, making electric cars more accessible.

The company’s significant presence in the U.K. is marked by its large auto plant in Sunderland, northeastern England. Nissan is set to close its engine cylinder plant in Sunderland in 2024, marking the end of more than 30 years of cylinder production at the location. An engine cylinder is a fundamental component of an internal combustion engine, which powers many types of vehicles, machinery, and equipment. This decision comes as the contract with Renault, the plant’s only customer, is due to expire.

With the advent of electric vehicles, the role of the internal combustion engine, including cylinders, is diminishing. EVs use electric motors powered by batteries, offering a cleaner and more sustainable mode of transportation.

The UK’s largest car manufacturer by volume, Nissan’s 362,000-square-metre Sunderland Plant is home to a workforce of about 6,000 people. In June, the plant celebrated building their 11 millionth vehicle since production started in 1986. The milestone means that, on average, a new car has rolled off the line at the plant every two minutes, every hour of every day, for 37 years.

The 11 million is made up of nine different models, with 22 variants. Four models, Qashqai, Micra, Primera and Juke have gone past seven figures, with Qashqai the all-time highest at more than four million.

The plant is also moving forward with its EUR1 billion (USD1.06 billion) EV36Zero project, which consists of three main elements: a new electric vehicle, a 12 gigawatt-hour (GWh) gigafactory with the company’s battery partner Envision AESC, and a microgrid to deliver 100% renewable energy to Nissan and suppliers.

Addressing concerns over potential tariffs due to Britain’s Brexit deal with the European Union, Guillaume Cartier, Nissan’s chairman for Africa, Middle East, India, Europe & Oceania, assured that Sunderland-produced cars would comply with the “rules of origin.”

The Nissan factory in Sunderland exports approximately 70% of its production to the European Union. This significant export percentage underscores the plant’s reliance on access to the European market for its sustainability and growth.

By the fiscal year ending March 2027, Nissan projects that 98% of its European sales will be electrified, encompassing both hybrids and fully-electric vehicles. This goal aligns with alliance partner Renault’s vision of becoming all-electric in Europe by 2030.

The European EV market is heating up, with Chinese manufacturers like BYD and Nio introducing new models. Amid this competition, Uchida highlighted Nissan’s efforts to reduce costs while heavily investing in electrification.

Cartier hinted at the possibility of increasing production at the Sunderland plant if the U.K. government establishes more trade agreements. Such deals could potentially double the plant’s production from its 2022 output of 238,000 cars.

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), one of the largest trade associations in the UK, British car production rebounded by 11.7% in the first six months of 2023, with 450,168 units manufactured. Electrified vehicle production surged 71.6% to a new first-half record of 170,231 units. 

The capacity of UK car makers to turn out the latest, greenest models has also increased, with production of hybrid electric (HEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) up 71.6% from January to June to a record total of 170,231 units. This represents more than a third (37.8%) of all cars produced so far this year.