FRANKLIN, TN - Nissan North America Inc. has begun installation of 30 solar-assisted charging stations at the Smyrna Vehicle Assembly Plant and the Nissan Americas headquarters in Franklin, Tenn.

The advanced solar chargers, which will be operational for use by Nissan employees and visitors by July 1, are designed to charge the Nissan Leaf, which debuted globally in December 2010. Tennessee is a key launch market for the Leaf.

Nissan soon will build the Nissan Leaf and the batteries that power it at the company's Smyrna manufacturing complex. The advanced, lithium-ion battery plant is 75-percent complete with an expected operational date of late next year.

“Tennessee is Nissan’s home in the Americas region,” said Carlos Tavares, chairman of Nissan Americas. “These solar-assisted charging stations demonstrate our dedication to a zero-emissions society and our dedication to bringing innovation to our home in Tennessee. Nissan in the coming year will expand our manufacturing presence, enhance our philanthropic efforts and make new additions to our headquarters operations, all in Tennessee.”

The charging stations illustrate the ability to reduce the impact to the electrical grid through the use of solar power and energy storage, the automaker said. They employ the same lithium-ion battery cells that also power the Nissan Leaf, an innovation that allows Nissan to study the battery’s storage capacity as well as demonstrate the second-life use for lithium-ion batteries beyond their use in automotive applications.

Nissan is working with the U.S. Department of Energy, which is funding the stations through a matching grant, as well as Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Tennessee Valley Authority, with which Nissan will share usage and technical data from the solar chargers for further study.

Nissan plans to begin producing the Nissan Leaf in Smyrna by the end of next year, with capacity for 150,000 units annually. Production of the Nissan Rogue crossover also will move from Japan to Smyrna. The Infiniti JX, an all-new Infiniti family crossover vehicle, also will be built in Smyrna starting in 2012. These moves are part of Nissan’s commitment for 85 percent of all vehicles sold in the United States to be produced in the North American region by 2015.

Nissan late next year will inaugurate its advanced lithium-ion battery plant, which is located adjacent to the Smyrna Vehicle Assembly Plant. Construction is approximately 75 percent complete and scheduled to be finished by late summer. Nissan then will start installing the battery manufacturing equipment inside the plant and will be capable of producing lithium-ion batteries beginning in late 2012. The plant will have the capacity to produce 200,000 batteries annually.