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How Are Electric-Car Batteries Made? Photos From Nissan’s New Plant

Last month, in addition to driving a 2013 Nissan Leaf through the Tennessee countryside, we visited Nissan’s newly opened lithium-ion cell fabrication plant in Smyrna, Tennessee.

That facility sits near Nissan’s main Smyrna vehicle assembly plant, which now makes 2013 Nissan Leaf electric cars as well as the Altimas, Maximas, and other sedans that come off its line.

The cell plant and the addition of the Leaf to the Smyrna line were funded with a $1.4 billion low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Energy, which Nissan is now paying back.

The challenge in touring a lithium-ion cell fabrication plant is that large portions of the cell-making process take place entirely inside highly technical coating machines and within sealed, pressurized rooms pumped full of purified air–to prevent any stray particles that might contaminate the cell materials.

As a result, we’ve had to rely on Nissan’s photos to show the process–because most of our own either showed the same thing or was of mysterious-looking machines behind plexiglass observation ports.

First, there’s the process of fabricating the cell, which is a metal object roughly the size of a square paperback book. It’s composed of an anode, a cathode, the separator between them, the electrolyte through which the ions travel, and the case in which it’s all contained.
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