Peering Into The Nissan LEAF’s Battery Factory In Tennessee

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Originally published on EV Obsession.

Those of you who have long wondered what the electric vehicle battery manufacturing plants that create the packs used in popular vehicles like the Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt, etc, are like behind the scenes may want to listen up right now.

Some of the writers over at Mind2Marketplace recently got the opportunity to tour Nissan’s electric vehicle (EV) battery manufacturing facility in Smyrna, thereby providing us with some interesting new insights into the production process.

Nissan Leaf via Nissan


Until we (here at EVObsession) get to do our own tour of the 475,000-square-foot facility, we’ll have to settle for this secondhand account. 🙂 Here are some of the most interesting bits, imho:

The entire process takes about 27 steps in total. Simply put, the batteries are assembled as cells that are aged so “chemistry happens” then modules are put together, Whitaker said. He compared it to the baking process where mixing the ingredients happens in the clean room, baking occurs during the aging process and module assembly is like the icing on the cake. A bulk of the assembly occurs in a 100,000-square-foot clean room, which is the largest clean room in the nation.

The clean room is sealed off from the rest of the facility, like a building within a building where the environment is strictly controlled and environmental pollutants such as dust, airborne microbes, aerosol particles and chemical vapors are kept to a minimum. The room is kept at a constant 60 degrees and 1% humidity as four machines cut material, assemble cells and inject them with electrolyte as three technicians and two mechanics oversee the process.

The machines create a new cell every 17 seconds, and the injection machine fills nine cells at a time before they are stored in pressurized magazines that are transported to a storage area by automated “Smart Carts” that play midi-music to warn workers of their presence. The batteries are then aged for a little more than a month as the electrolyte reacts with the cathodes and anodes that will store electricity.

That’s certainly a vivid image. Automated, music-playing, smart carts? The future is here I suppose.

During the waiting process (as the batteries bake), an eye is kept on the process via remote monitoring of humidity, temperature, particle count, etc. All of this data gained via the monitoring process is then kept paired with individual batteries via the allocation of individual numbers.

The gathered data is reportedly used by Nissan to continue to fine tune the manufacturing protocol.

After the aging process is completed, then the batteries are charged and sent to be “finished” — trimming, gluing, assembly, etc. Following this, the batteries are then sent to be installed in new Nissan LEAFs.

With Nissan’s recently leaked plans to notably boost LEAF battery capacity (and thusly range) over the next few years, it seems likely that the plant will see manufacturing numbers increase. Perhaps we should arrange for a tour ourselves once that happens?

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

James Ayre has 4830 posts and counting. See all posts by James Ayre

11 thoughts on “Peering Into The Nissan LEAF’s Battery Factory In Tennessee

  • Interesting. Thanks. Here’s another interesting article about Nissan I’m sure you will enjoy:
    “EV advocate Ghosn eyes fuel cell entry around 2020”

    and you might also like: “Why Daimler will wait until ’17 to debut fuel cell vehicle”

    The death of the ICE is at hand.

    • Yeah, Nissan is playing it right. Fuel cells are an endgame; they will only be adopted by consumers when the majority of transportation is electrified and petroleum is expensive and hard to find.

    • My prediction: both companies will do nothing or close to nothing on the fuel cell front as it becomes obvious 3 years from now that EVs will completely take over. No time to roll out H fueling stations before EVs achieve 300 mile range and effective price points. New ICE sales volume will crash to 10% of current level sometime around 2025.

    • Why would anybody want to pay way more for a fuel cell vehicle that uses 3x as much energy to go the same distance as an electric car? Especially when that energy comes in the form of Hydrogen which is much more difficult to store and transport than electricity. And especially when hydrogen filling stations cost $1M – $2M apiece, making even a rudimentary refueling infrastructure run into the tens of billions of dollars. Why would anybody risk that kind of money before there’s even a market demand for hydrogen fuel and why would anybody buy an expensive hydrogen car before even a rudimentary refueling infrastructure is in place? Especially when people can recharge their electric cars at home fairly easily and Tesla has already laid down a rudimentary charging infrastructure at a fraction of the cost of hydrogen infrastructure.

      • You should ask the head of Nissan (who makes and has championed the Leaf), and the head of Daimler why they think it is the coming thing. They both seem to think it will be the right time in about 3-5 years.

  • Aging under controlled temperature and humidity? It sounds like making cheese.

  • “100,000-square-foot clean room, which is the largest clean room in the nation”

    Not true, The Samsung A2 facility in Texas has a 350,000 square toot class 100 clean room. In 2008 intel shut down its old D2 clean room which also had over 100,000 square feet of space.

    I work in the semiconductor industry and I have been inside a lot of clean rooms. Big clean rooms tend to dominate the industry. largest clean room in the nation, no. However if you said largest battery clean room in the nation, you might be correct (until the Giga factory opens). .

    “That’s certainly a vivid image. Automated, music-playing, smart carts?”

    Some semiconductor fabs have music playing smart carts. The music is used to allert the worker that the cart is in motion. I am often surprised that the workers don’t do insane listening to ice cream truck music all day long.

    In many semiconductor fabs these robots have been replaced by overhead tracks. A container of wafers (called a FOUP) is lowered to the processing equipment. Then when the equipment is done with the wafers are automatically retrieved and moved to another location for the next step in the manufacturing process. the video below shows this

  • Thanks! Very interesting, educational. It does sound more like making a cake – or cheese.

  • something so small every 17 seconds out of a 100000 sq ft facility just seem soo wrong…..

  • I thought I read somewhere that Nissan was switching to LG Chem batteries and stopping in-house battery production. Is that still just a rumor?

    • I think it happened. Nissan, IIRC, stated that they couldn’t keep up with dedicated battery companies. I think they might be manufacturing, or getting ready to manufacture LG Chem batteries in their battery factory.

Comments are closed.