Nissan announced yesterday that it has chosen sites in the UK and Portugal for its first two European factories to produce lithium-ion batteries.

Lithium-ion is the main battery technology currently being adopted by most manufacturers of electric and hybrid vehicles; it is used in the Tesla Roadster, for example, which went on sale last year and is generally considered to be one of the first truly practical electric vehicle designs. The British and Portuguese plants will each have an annual production capacity of 60,000 units.

Gordon Brown and the Business Secretary Lord Mandelson both travelled to Nissan's Sunderland plant for yesterday's announcement, demonstrating the weight which the government attaches to attracting investment in hybrid and electric vehicles to the UK.

However, Nissan stopped short of promising to build future electric cars - as opposed to the batteries that will power them - in the UK, and said it was discussing further potential battery production sites with other European governments, so the early edge secured by the British and the Portuguese may prove to be short-lived.

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