The new centre will act as a business incubator for the electric vehicle industry, creating jobs in the region and developing knowledge and technology. Research and development will initially focus on charging infrastructure and battery second life.
Nissan has a long-standing relationship with Gateshead College for the training and development of staff at its record-breaking Sunderland Plant.
The two organisations have also worked together to develop the Gateshead College Skills Academy for Sustainable Manufacturing and Innovation.
The ZECE will also act as a home for the manufacturing of Nissan’s cutting-edge quick-charger technology, which allows ChadeMo-compliant electric vehicles to charge to 80 per cent in just 30 minutes.
This follows an agreement with charging station manufacturer DBT to set up a new production facility at the centre which will produce up to 1,000 units a year for the European market.
The target is to have a network of quick charge stations across Europe with thousands of units in place by the end of 2015. To kick-start this ambitious programme, Nissan is giving 400 units away to Zero Emissions Mobility partners and volunteering companies in Europe.
The centre will also investigate the best opportunities for second life use of lithium-ion batteries that have been used previously in Nissan’s electric vehicles.
Epicentre of expertise
At the heart of this centre will be the development of skills and the creation of jobs and apprenticeships building on Gateshead College’s track record in linking manufacturers with a trained workforce in this new sector. All of these activities are aimed at sustaining Nissan and Gateshead College’s leadership position in the electric vehicle industry.
Etienne Henry, Vice President of Product Strategy and Planning at Nissan International SA and Head of the company’s Zero Emission Business Unit in Europe, said: ‘With production of the Nissan LEAF coming to Sunderland in early 2013, the North East will become the epicentre of electric vehicle expertise in Europe.’
Richard Thorold, Principal of Gateshead College, said: ‘Gateshead College is proud to be Nissan Sunderland Plant’s preferred training provider and of the role we have played in helping the plant become the largest in UK automotive history.’