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Nissan launches Leaf, first mass-market EV

Tokyo, December 3, 2010

Japan's Nissan Motor Co marked a major milestone in automotive history on Friday with the launch of the zero-emission Leaf, the world's first electric car to be mass-marketed.

Nissan said the five-seater hatchback was rated with a driving range of 200 km (124 miles) on a full charge under Japanese test standards, more than the 160 km (100 miles) advertised under California's rules and 73 miles under the US
Environmental Protection Agency's reading.   

Electric vehicles have no tailpipe emissions and are seen as a promising alternative to internal combustion engine cars as governments seek to clean the environment and use less oil.

But their relatively short driving range -- typically about a quarter of gasoline and diesel cars -- and their high price remain a hurdle for the vehicles to spread.

To address "range anxiety", Nissan said it had installed normal charging spots at about 2,200 dealers around Japan, and quick chargers in about 200 dealers capable of recharging to 80 percent of the batteries' full capacity in 30 minutes.

"We believe this is the start of a new era for the auto industry," Chief Operating Officer Toshiyuki Shiga said.   

Delivery will start in Japan and select US states this month, followed by the first European markets in January. Nissan has filled the maximum initial orders for 6,000 Leafs in Japan, and 20,000 units in the United States, set to reach customers over the next year or so.

Nissan is not the first major automaker to sell an electric car. That honour belongs to Mitsubishi Motors Corp, which launched the smaller i-MiEV electric car last year, first to fleet customers and then to individuals this April.   

But Nissan and its French partner, Renault SA, are aiming to be the top sellers in the nascent electric car market, which the alliance expects to make up 10 percent of new vehicle sales globally by 2020.

Renault and Nissan have earmarked 4 billion euros, or $5 billion, over the next few years to mass-produce electric vehicles and the batteries that power them. By 2013, the alliance will have the capacity to produce 500,000 batteries, some of which will be used for hybrid models.   

Until production of the Leaf begins in the United States at the end of 2012, and in Britain after that, output of the Leaf would be limited to 50,000 units a year, Shiga said.

Production of Mitsubishi Motors' i-MiEV, meanwhile, hit a cumulative 5,000 units last month after sales began in July 2009.

Nissan gave the Leaf a suggested retail price of 3.76 million yen ($44,900), which will fall to 2.98 million yen in Japan after the government's electric vehicle subsidies. - Reuters




Tags: nissan | Leaf | electirc car |

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