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Peering Into The Nissan LEAF’s Battery Factory In Tennessee

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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Written By

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.

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