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Nissan Gets $1.4B DOE Loan

Japanese automaker will use Dept. of Energy loan to create 1,300 jobs in Tennessee to make all-electric Leaf sedans and lithium-ion battery packs to power them.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) -- Nissan closed on a $1.4 billion federal loan that will be used to build electric vehicles and lithium-ion battery packs in Tennessee, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said Thursday.

A new battery plant is scheduled to open in late 2012 in Smyrna and as many as 1,300 jobs could be created when the car and battery plants are operating at full capacity, said Katherine Zachary, spokeswoman for Nissan North America, Inc.

Nissan is retooling an existing auto plant to build its five-passenger, fully electric Leaf sedan.

The facilities will have the capacity to build 150,000 electric cars and 200,000 batteries per year.

The loan, which was announced previously, is part of the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program. Congress authorized that $25 billion program as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

The current administration has ramped up research spending even further.

Last year, President Barack Obama announced $2.4 billion in federal grants to develop next-generation electric vehicles and batteries.

The grants were split among nearly 50 projects in 25 states, with the biggest shares going to Indiana and Michigan to create job opportunities in the automotive industry.

"This loan, which will bring production of the Nissan Leaf to Tennessee, is a significant step in sustaining American jobs and American manufacturing," said Scott Becker, senior vice president at Nissan North America.

Nissan's Leafs are already being built and should be available by year's end for about $30,000. The car debuted in Tokyo last summer.

Nissan opened a new, $100 million North America headquarters south of Nashville in 2008.

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