When charged from renewable sources of electricity, electric cars are extremely clean and green. We all understand that. But what about the carbon footprint of the car’s manufacturing process, from its raw constituent parts to a finished vehicle ready for delivery? If the processes used to make an electric car aren’t exactly green, than how green is the car?
It’s a question the auto industry has been trying to tackle for a while — especially for high-tech models like electric cars — where rare earth metals are often shipped half way around the globe from supplier to factory. As well as being economically expensive, the carbon footprint of shipping specialist components like motors and battery packs from one side of the world to the other dramatically increases the energy and carbon emissions of the manufacturing process.
In a move to alleviate this problem and save itself money, Nissan has set itself a goal of producing 85 percent of all the cars its sells in North America within North America. To that end, Nissan has just stepped up the percentage of locally-sourced parts for its LEAF electric car, switching suppliers of the tons and tons of magnetic copper wire used in the LEAF’s production from Japan to Indiana.
Earlier this year, Nissan signed a deal with Superior Essex, a manufacturing company in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for the supply of the copper wire needed to help it manufacturer the LEAf’s 80 kilowatt electric motor. Instead of traveling more than seven thousand miles by sea and then road or rail, the copper wire has less than three hundred miles to travel between the supplier and the Dencherd, Tennessee factory where the LEAF’s motor is made. From there, the completed motors have less than 70 miles to travel before reaching the Smyrna facility where the LEAF is made.
In total, the locally-sourced wire travels less than a tenth of the distance travelled by the Japanese-sourced wire before it’s installed in the LEAF.
Nissan says the reduction in production costs not only results in a cheaper price, but it also means that the company has more money to spend on designing and building improvements for future models, as well as supporting the economy in the country where the car is being made.
For Nissan and its U.S. employees and suppliers, that’s great news.
So next time someone tells you that your all-electric LEAF has been shipped half-way around the world, remember to tell them just how local it really is.
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