Nissan sets December 20 launch date for electric Leaf

Nissan on Friday said it will launch the Leaf in Japan on December 20 and days later in the United States as it bets on drivers' readiness to embrace the first globally mass-produced electric car.

"We believe this is a true breakthrough and it will serve as a key for mobility of the future," Nissan chief operating officer Toshiyuki Shiga told reporters in Tokyo. "We believe this is the dawn of a new era."

The Leaf - short for Leading Environmentally-friendly Affordable Family car - has enjoyed a crescendo of industry buzz and last month became the first electric vehicle to win European Car of the Year.

The fulcrum of Nissan's green ambitions, the mid-sized five-seat hatchback is already a sell-out in the United States on pre-orders. It will be launched in select European markets in early 2011.

Nissan said prices would start at 3.76 million yen (45,000 dollars), but the actual price customers would pay would start at 2.98 million yen as the environmentally friendly car will be eligible for subsidies.

The automaker has gambled that its electric car will take off globally and overcome consumer concerns such as "range-anxiety", or the fear that their cars will run out of juice between charging points.

It said that on a full charge the car can reach a maximum speed of 145 kilometres (90 miles) per hour and its top driving range is 200 kilometres on a single eight-hour charge from a household charger, more than enough for everyday use of most motorists.

For those in a hurry, it can be rapid-charged to 80 percent of capacity in 30 minutes at special charging stations.

Nissan's 2,200 dealerships in Japan will have normal chargers, while 200 selected dealerships will have rapid-chargers, putting at least one fast charger in a 40-kilometre radius across Japan.

The first US shipment has sold out, Nissan said, with the company having received 20,000 orders and separately at least 6,000 more in Japan.

Nissan said it expects to make 10,000 units by March 2011 as it works to catch up with demand.

Emitting none of the exhaust pollutants that have covered skies over cities from Los Angeles to Mumbai in smog, the all-electric Leaf is touted as an evolutionary step from petrol-electric hybrids made by the likes of Toyota.

Nissan, controlled by French partner Renault, started mass production of the Leaf in October in Japan and plans to expand production in North America in 2012 and in Europe in 2013.

"It is Nissan's commitment to become the leader in zero-emission vehicles," Shiga said. "We will conduct various programmes and make investments to achieve that goal with our partner Renault."

The Leaf is not the first electric vehicle to hit Japanese streets, and will face challenges from rivals including Mitsubishi Motors' "i-MiEV" minicar.

Toyota, which has for more than a decade sold petrol-electric hybrids such as the Prius, aims to launch its own electric car by 2012 but has put its immediate focus on new hybrid models.

Honda's hybrid Fit went on sale in Japan in October as the cheapest petrol-electric car available in the nation at 1.59 million yen.

Against cheaper competition, Nissan's Leaf project faces various challenges, with the vehicle's production cost meaning that it is unlikely to boost the automaker's earnings say analysts, with most demand coming from early adopters.

Ordinary motorists will hesitate to purchase the expensive vehicle and wait for further improvement in battery technology that has so far not been standardised across the global industry, analysts say.

Shiga said however that he believed the new vehicle will eventually "fully function as a profitable business".

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

    Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

    £40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

    Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent