Construction has begun on a new gigafactory in Sunderland, for Envision AESC – a world-leading Japanese electric vehicle battery technology company.

The project, is being delivered by Wates Group and its specialist engineering arm, SES Engineering Services and is the largest by single value in Wates’ 125-year history.

It is AESC’s second Sunderland battery plant and will have capacity of 12 GWh and will employ more than a 1,000 people when operational in 2025. It will be powered by 100% Net Zero Carbon energy, aligning with the company’s global commitment to sustainability.

The state-of-the-art facility will produce AESC’s latest generation batteries, with 30% more energy density to improve range and efficiency, and manufacture enough batteries to power 100,000 electric vehicles annually.

It forms part of a wider £1bn partnership with Nissan and Sunderland City Council to create EV36Zero, an electric vehicle hub supporting next generation EV production and accelerating the transition to net zero carbon mobility.

A traditional Japanese first pillar ceremony marked the first phase of work on Friday 9th December, with AESC CEO Shoichi Matsumoto tightening the bolt on the building’s ‘first pillar’ – a traditional Japanese custom on construction projects. The ceremony also marked a decade of EV battery production on Wearside with the first electric vehicle battery built back in 2012, to support production of the first-generation Nissan LEAF.

The company has doubled in size since production began and today employs more than 470 people in Sunderland. Globally AESC batteries are found in 800,000 electric vehicles operating with zero critical incidents.

The footprint of the new building will be the equivalent of 23 football pitches and use 14000 km of mains cables. When complete the 360m long building will be longer than the nearby Northern Spire bridge across the River Wear.

The latest integrated Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT) smart technology will be deployed to monitor and optimise energy consumption, manufacturing and maintenance at the gigafactory.

Construction of the new building on the IAMP business park – which spans land in South Tyneside and Sunderland will pave the way for potential future investment that could eventually see the site generate 35GWh capacity and 4,500 new high value green jobs.

Wates Group and SES Engineering Services, are leading the design and delivery of the build, working alongside Turner & Townsend who will act as the project manager and cost manager.

“Envision AESC is the largest single project by value in our 125-year history. We are integrating years of expertise from across our business and supply partners to deliver this immensely complex scheme.
“This gigafactory represents the future of green, automotive manufacturing – not only in the North East, but nationally – and like all our projects, we’re committed to building it sustainably and for the long-term benefit of the region. It was an honour to celebrate this first phase with AESC and we look forward to our next milestone being completed.”

Sir James Wates CBE,
Chairman of Wates Group

The first pillar event marks the latest phase of Envision AESC’s investment in the UK and is a sign of our ongoing commitment to Sunderland. Our ambitious growth plans are built on a focus on quality, which is why we have over 800,000 electric vehicle batteries on the road globally with zero critical incidents.
“I want to pay tribute to the fantastic team in Sunderland who over the past decade have helped ensure each and every battery is built without compromise and helped make AESC a leading battery supplier.”

Shoichi Matsumoto
Envision AESC CEO

“We are delighted to be part of today’s ground-breaking ceremony for Envision AESC’s new gigafactory.
“The first Sunderland battery plant helped launch the 100% electric Nissan LEAF and the second factory will be a fundamental part of our EV36Zero project, which brings together electric vehicle production, battery manufacturing and renewables as we drive towards carbon neutrality.”

Andy Marsh
Nissan Europe Vice President, Engineering