Envision AESC has more than a decade of experience building battery cells. The company started as a joint venture of Nissan and NEC to produce batteries for the Nissan Leaf, with a full-scale battery cell and battery pack assembly plant in Smyrna, Tenn., 230 miles north of Mercedes’ Alabama operations.
But when expected demand for the Leaf did not materialize, Nissan bought out NEC’s stake and later sold a majority stake in the company to China’s Envision Group.
Envision has cell manufacturing deals with Nissan and Renault in Japan, France and the U.K. and aims to have more than 300 gigawatt-hours of capacity by 2030.
Envision has produced “hundreds of millions of cells,” Schäfer said. “It’s impressive to see their knowledge about series production, their attitude toward safety and quality.”
Mercedes’ current battery suppliers CATL and Farasis Energy do not have U.S. production capabilities.
“OEMs are interested in diversifying their supply base, so they’re not dependent on any single company or region for geopolitical and logistics reasons,” Abuelsamid said.
Envision could announce the location of its battery cell factory early next month, a spokeswoman with the supplier told Automotive News. It will likely be near the Vance assembly plant because vehicle batteries are heavy and expensive to ship.
“Most automakers are working to establish cell supplies that are generally within a few hours’ driving distances of the vehicle assembly,” Abuelsamid said.