Nissan is to invest £420 million in a 'gigafactory' in Sunderland, creating 1,600 jobs in the city and 4,500 more in the supply chain with plans for a new electric car and a huge new plant to make batteries.

The project - in partnership with tech giant Envision AESC and Sunderland City Council -  will transform the sector and is a major boost for the whole region, with long-term potential for a growing supply chain.

Envision founder Lei Zhang, whose company already makes electric batteries in Sunderland, saw parallels with the region’s coal and shipbuilding industrial history, with thousands of new jobs also being created in energy and transportation.

He said that history, with the region’s dedicated and skilled workforce, was a “really good launchpad” for a green industrial revolution.

Nissan has received substantial support from the Government, keen to secure some big projects post-Brexit, and the news has been widely welcomed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I think Nissan is moving forward to use Brexit as an opportunity. Nissan’s announcement is a major vote of confidence in the UK and our highly-skilled workers in the North-East. It is a pivotal moment in our electric vehicle revolution securing its future for decades to come.”

Speaking at the plant later, he said: “There are ongoing discussions about ways we can support people who are going to bring fantastic green technology into this country.

“Obviously they’re confidential but this is something that is a massive benefit to the UK economy.”

The Northern Echo:

Sharon Hodgson, Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West, said the project could “transform car-making in the UK”.

She added: “The Sunderland plant is the jewel in the crown not only for Nissan but for our region’s economy – with local jobs and a local supply chain, we in the North East benefit most.

“This announcement is also testament to Sunderland City Council’s dedication to becoming a city of the future, providing green energy, green jobs and green investment.”

READ MORE: Nissan to build huge battery plant in Sunderland

Nissan chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta said this month was the 35th anniversary of the plant building its first car.

He said: “This is a £1 billion birthday present for all of my colleagues here.”

A spokesman for Britishvolt, which is already planning a £2.6bn Gigaplant on land where the former Blyth Power Station used to sit in Northumberland, said: "It is positive news that the Government is taking battery production seriously and are backing this up by providing funding in line with that distributed in the EU for its battery industry development."

The Unite union agreed the EV36Zero hub was "a fantastic first", but it warned there was still plenty of work to be done.

Steve Turner, assistant general secretary for manufacturing, said: "Businesses and investors will go where they can see a committed government partner. 

"Unfortunately, the employers I deal with every day are tearing their hair out with frustration at the UK government's half-baked, uncoordinated approach to supporting green manufacturing. So I say to ministers celebrating today, you have to step up – no more easy soundbites."

Sarah Glendinning, CBI North East Director, said the announcement would be a catalyst for the region and promote more investment in electric vehicle infrastructure.

“Nissan’s investment is a strong vote of confidence in a greener future for the UK economy, and the workforce of the North East," she said.

“This announcement signals the success of concerted efforts between business and government to seize the moment by creating jobs fuelled by decarbonisation efforts.

“And it must be the spark for six more gigafactories needed by 2040 to support a thriving electric vehicle market and prompt investment in widespread charging infrastructure."

Prof David Baglee, Head of School of Engineering at the University of Sunderland, said "This is fantastic opportunity for Nissan, the City of Sunderland and the North East. The University will be at the forefront in providing the necessary academic programmes to enhance the skills of current and future Nissan staff. 

"We already support Nissan through our degree apprenticeship programme and a number of integrated-learning short-course training courses specifically designed for industry skills development."

The race to have an EV infrastructure to match a huge increase in vehicle production will now be a key factor.

Andrew Aldridge, a partner at Deepbridge Capital which invests in the sector, said: “The production and use of electric vehicles has and will continue to soar. The sector continues to be at the forefront of fascinating and fast-moving technological innovation as the motor industry and the tech giants meet to help make EVs the norm. There are however justified concerns around the rapid adoption of electric vehicles in the UK due to the limits on the speed of rolling out the charging infrastructure."