Fears grow tha virus could hit UK electric vehicle sales as UK home of top selling Nissan LEAF shuts its doors until end of the week
Production of electric vehicles (EVs) and motor cars at Nissan's flagship UK factory in Sunderland has been suspended "until the end of this week", in the latest signal that disruption wrought by the coronavirus pandemic is beginning to hit the green economy.
The Japanese carmaker halted production at the North East England manufacturing plant yesterday and implemented "a range of measures to ensure the welfare of employees and communities", in a decision it said followed advice from national governments regarding Covid-19.
It means production of Nissan LEAF vehicles - the UK's top selling pure electric car - has been halted at the country's largest car factory, which made one in every five EVs sold in Europe last year and represents Nissan's only LEAF production plant in the UK.
The factory, which also makes internal combustion engine cars such as the Qashqai and the Juke, employs around 7,000 workers. It remains unclear whether the plant's closure could be extended beyond this week. "We will continue to monitor the situation," Nissan said.
In January Nissan had inked a deal to build 2,000 LEAF electric vehicles at the Sunderland plant for Uber, with the US ride-hailing giant then planning to offer the EVs to its drivers in London at a below market rate in a bid to combat air pollution.
Surging electric vehicle sales have been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise tough UK car market over the past year. While the overall market for new cars fell by 2.4 per cent in 2019, EVs enjoyed yet another record year with sales jumping 144 per cent and overtaking plug-in hybrids for the first time.
However, the sector has already been suffering with supply bottlenecks, with customers waiting months for popular models such as the Leaf.
There are now growing fears the fallout from the escalating coronavirus outbreak could severely hit the sector, with BloombergNEF last week downgrading its forecast for battery demand growth worldwide by four per cent as Covid-19 headwinds impact both car and battery supply chains.
The latest developments come as the Guardian reported that energy companies are drawing up contingency plans to cope with up to 80 per cent of their staff taking sick leave in the coming months. The sector has taken steps to postopone all non-essential work in a bid to ensure grid security is maintained.
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