CHATANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) -- A $1.6 billion federal loan for Nissan North America Inc. to build electric cars and battery packs to power them could eventually create more than 1,000 new jobs at the automaker's assembly complex in Tennessee.
The vice president of manufacturing for Nissan's assembly plant at Smyrna and powertrain plant at Decherd, Susan Brennan, said Tuesday that if existing sales volumes hold and depending on demand, there could eventually be up to 1,000 jobs added at a new Smyrna plant where lithium-ion battery packs will be made.
Construction of that battery plant -- which when fully operational will have an annual capacity of 200,000 batteries -- is expected to start by the end of this year.
Brennan said Nissan's assembly plant will accommodate production of the electric car starting in 2012 -- a projected annual capacity of 150,000 zero-emissions vehicles -- and that could involve a few hundred additional jobs. The car will be made in Japan initially.
"We are assuming additive jobs," she said.
Brennan said Nissan, which has about 3,900 employees at Smyrna after downsizing with voluntary buyouts, is using the U.S. Department of Energy loan money in the United States.
For the past year, Nissan has been working with government officials, utilities and other organizations to create conditions that will support zero-emissions vehicles. Nissan plans to introduce plug-in vehicles next year in Tennessee, along with other markets that include Oregon and California, and mass market them globally two years later.
A Nissan statement said its electric vehicle will comfortably seat five people and have a range of 100 miles between battery charges. Brennan declined to speculate about the sales price but said the "goal is to build an electric vehicle that is affordable."
Forty miles from Nissan's plant at Smyrna, General Motors is deciding if its assembly plant at Spring Hill will possibly be shut down later this year. Brennan said Nissan currently has no plans that would involve that GM plant or its United Auto Workers employees that could be idled.
"There has been no discussion about that," she said.
GM is deciding if it will build small cars at Spring Hill, which would save about 1,200 jobs.
Mike O'Rourke, president of UAW Local 1853 at Spring Hill, said employees are waiting on GM's decision and if it is unfavorable Nissan would have a "full-service site sitting in Spring Hill. Anything is doable now."