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Nissan makes automotive history with Leaf launch


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Nissan makes automotive history with Leaf launch

Earlier this month, the Leaf was crowned 2011 European Car of the Year, the first time the award has gone to an electric vehicle.

December 3, 2010 06:01 CET

YOKOHAMA, Japan (Reuters) – Nissan Motor Co. marked a major milestone in automotive history on Friday with the launch of the Leaf, the world's first mass-marketed electric car.

Delivery of the first batch will begin in Japan on Dec. 20 and in selected U.S. states later this month, followed by the first European markets in January.

Nissan has filled the maximum initial orders for 6,000 cars in Japan, and 20,000 units in the United States.

"We believe this is the start of a new era for the auto industry," CEO Toshiyuki Shiga said at the launch event at Nissan's headquarters in Yokohama, south of Tokyo.

Nissan is not the first major automaker to sell an electric car. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. 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 ($5 billion) by 2013 to build assembly and battery factories capable of producing 500,000 EVs.

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

'Range anxiety'

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.

The Leaf gets 200 km (124 miles) on a full charge under Japanese test standards, 160 km (100 miles) under California's regulations, and 73 miles under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's reading. But their relatively short driving range, typically about a quarter of gasoline and diesel cars, and their high price remain a hurdle for mass-market appeal.

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.

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.

In Europe the car is expected to cost about 30,000 euros and about $25,000 in the United States with a federal tax credit, and as low as $20,280 in California, which will offer further credits.

Earlier this month, the Leaf was crowned 2011 European Car of the Year, the first time in the 47-year history of the annual competition that the award has gone to an electric vehicle.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20101203/ANE/312039990/1429#ixzz173uAR6YA

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