NASHVILLE--U.S. government funds could help Nissan Motor overcome the cost and difficulty of importing lithium ion batteries to power its future electric vehicles.
Nissan seeks a low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Energy's $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program to build a lithium ion battery factory in Smyrna, Tenn.
Last week the company confirmed that the Energy Department had accepted its application for consideration but declined to say how much it requested.
Until now, automakers have relied heavily on batteries imported from Asia for gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles. Nissan and Ford Motor have obtained hybrid drivetrains from Toyota Motor.
Nissan plans to move to a new generation of battery technology through a joint venture with Japanese supplier NEC Corp. Those Japanese-made lithium ion batteries would power Nissan's future electric vehicles, including a next-generation Altima Hybrid and a lineup of pure electric models that Nissan wants to launch beginning in 2010.
But importing batteries is costly, and the materials can be hazardous. The recent strengthening of the yen also makes Japanese-made vehicles and parts less competitive in the United States.
(Source: Automotive News)