The largest lithium-ion automotive battery plant in the U.S. is located in Smyrna, Tenn.  The Nissan (IW 1000/26) plant- which is making battery components for the ramp-up of production of the all-electric, zero-emission 2013 Nissan LEAF early next year – is one of three of its kind in the world operated by a major automaker.

Since December 2010, Nissan has delivered more than 18,000 LEAFs to U.S. customers and more than 46,000 worldwide.

“Opening this U.S. plant is an important milestone in Nissan’s overarching strategy to foster sustainable mobility around the world,” said Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan Motor Co.

“The opening of this facility in Tennessee supports our goal of making zero-emissions mobility a reality through American jobs and American manufacturing,” Ghosn added.

Combined, the construction of the battery plant and modification of the Smyrna manufacturing facility represent an investment of up to $1.7 billion when built to full capacity. The project is supported by a U.S. Department of Energy loan for up to $1.4 billion.

The loan was issued as part of the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, program authorized by Congress as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The program is designed to accelerate the development of vehicles and technologies that increase U.S. energy independence, create cleaner means of transportation and stimulate the American economy.

The first batteries produced at the plant have completed the required aging process and are now ready to receive their first charge. The state-of-the-art facility is capable of expanding to produce modules for up to 200,000 batteries annually depending on market demand. Those batteries can serve as the power source for the all-electric Nissan LEAF and for future vehicles that could be added to the portfolio.

The new battery plant is located adjacent to Nissan’s existing vehicle assembly plant in Tennessee, which has been retooled to accommodate production of the Nissan LEAF.

Adding production of the Nissan LEAF and the battery has resulted in the creation of more than 300 U.S. manufacturing jobs to date.

As battery production and LEAF assembly expand to accommodate demand, combined operations could add up to 1,000 additional jobs as needed.

The recent growth of Nissan’s U.S. manufacturing plants is part of a strategy to localize core-model production. By 2015, Nissan aims to have 85% of all Nissan and Infiniti products that are sold in the United States produced in North America.