The deal will safeguard a number of jobs in Sunderland’s current Nissan plant and boost Portugal’s plans to offer increased charging point for environmentally friendly vehicles.

Both governments have offered ‘financial assistance’ to Nissan to make sure the car giant decided on the locations in northern England and as yet unspecified location in Portugal.

The UK site will become, according to the government, the centre-piece of the newly established Low Carbon Economic Area in the North East of England.

Gordon Brown, the prime minister, said: “Nissan’s investment in a new battery plant and its hope to start producing electric vehicles here in Sunderland is great news for the local economy, creating up to 350 direct jobs and creating and safeguarding hundreds more in the associated supply chain.

“Sunderland could now be a strong contender to produce electric vehicles for Nissan in Europe and we will continue to work with Nissan to ensure this happens.”

Nissan senior vice president for manufacturing in Europe, Trevor Mann said: “A great deal of work has been going on at both the local and national level to promote and facilitate the introduction of electric vehicles within the region.

“Today’s announcement potentially marks another important milestone in establishing low carbon transport as a viable and attractive alternative across the North East and beyond, and reinforces Nissan’s commitment to lead the world in the mass marketing of zero emission vehicles.”

In Portugal several possible sites for the battery plant have been identified and the final selection will be announced at a later date.

Portuguese Prime Minister, Jose Sócrates, said: “Portugal is one of the first countries in the world to have a nationwide charging network for electric vehicles, named Mobi-E.

“This leadership has only been possible thanks to Portugal’s decisive move towards renewable energies – 43% of electricity consumed is produced from clean energies.”

By Luke Walsh

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