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Nissan starts electric Leaf production

Nissan has started production of its highly anticipated all-electric Leaf model at its Oppama facility in Japan.

The ‘world’s first affordable electric car’ is set to go on sale in Japan and the US in December before it arrives in the UK in March 2011. In November, the Japanese car maker intends to begin exporting the fully electric model to the United States as the first models begin to roll off the production line. Meanwhile the first models are expected to arrive in Europe by December, ready to begin deliveries in the New Year.

Leaf production

Nissan will produce the LEAF at the Oppama plant along with popular gasoline models such as Nissan Juke and Nissan Cube.  Part of the assembly line has been modified to mount battery modules at the stage of production where fuel tanks are traditionally installed, and motors and inverters are mounted at the point where engines are installed in gasoline-powered vehicles.

While production of the first electric model will prove a novel experience for workers at the plant, the manufacturer is confident that it is ready for the challenge.

Hidetoshi Imazu, Executive Vice President of Manufacturing, explains: “Oppama will serve as the ‘mother plant’ for the production of Nissan Leaf.  We will use all of the know-how and learnings from Oppama to ensure the highest quality at all sites that manufacture Nissan EVs.”

Nissan LEAF’s lithium-ion battery modules are manufactured at the Automotive Energy Supply Corporation (AESC) operation in Zama, Japan, which is a joint-venture between the car maker and NEC Corporation.  The battery module, which contains 4 battery cells, are assembled at Zama and then shipped to the Nissan Oppama facility, where 48 of them are assembled into the electric car’s battery pack.

Sites for future production of Nissan EVs include Smyrna, Tennessee, in the United States and the Sunderland plant in the UK.

The Oppama plant has an annual production capacity of 50,000 units.  The Leaf will start production at Smyrna in late 2012 and at Sunderland in early 2013.  At full ramp up, Smyrna will have an annual production capacity of 150,000 units, and Sunderland will have a capacity of 50,000 units.

“This is a significant milestone, not only for Nissan and the Renault-Nissan Alliance, but also for the entire automotive industry,” said Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn at the Nissan Leaf production ceremony.  “Consumers are clear. They want sustainable and affordable mobility...and the [Renault-Nissan] Alliance is leading the way with cars that deliver exactly that, with the reliability, excitement and performance that consumers demand.  The high-quality, innovative Nissan LEAF will radically transform what consumers expect from automobile manufacturers worldwide.

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Faye Sunderland

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