A rare tour of Nissan's UK battery plant demonstrated how tricky it is to build the product.
Nissan is very secretive about its commercially sensitive production processes. My visit this month was the first time Nissan let outsiders into the 420 million pounds (534 million euros) plant in Sunderland, northeast England, since it opened in 2013.
Security was tight. No cell phones were allowed and we were told nothing about the mysterious “aging room,” where the battery cells sit for 32 days to properly activate the chemistry. “We can't talk about it for commercial reasons,” Jim Wilkinson, battery plant production manager, told me.
Cleanliness was far more stringent than any car-making operation I've seen.
The flat, laptop-sized cells are created by layering anode and cathode and then filled with electrolyte. This happens in the clean room, which before entering we had to change shoes and cover up to the point that only our eyes were showing. We looked as though we were cleaning up after a particularly virulent epidemic.
We had to leave behind any click-activated ballpoint pens because the rubbing movement can send microscopic plastic particles into the air. Finally we passed through a four-person “air shower” before entering the room, which is kept at less than 1 percent humidity.