Japan's third largest automaker, Nissan has unveiled the much-awaited electric car called the 'Leaf', timed with the opening of its new headquarters in Yokohama yesterday.
The zero-emission hatchback, powered by lithium-ion battery with a range of more than 160km (100 miles) on a single charge, will go on sale in Japan, the US and Europe late next year and the company intends to add two more models later.
Describing the Leaf as "the world's first affordable zero-emission car," the automaker said that the car was powered by laminated, compact lithium-ion batteries, which generate power output of over 90kW, while its electric motor which delivers 80kW/280Nm, can reach top speed of 140kmph.
Timing the unveiling of the Leaf with the opening ceremony of Nissan's new global headquarters in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, chief executive Carlos Ghosn drove the Leaf to the stage accompanied by Japan's former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, Kanagawa prefecture governor Shigefumi Matsuzawa and Yokohama city mayor Hiroshi Nakada.
"Nissan Leaf is a tremendous accomplishment - one in which all Nissan employees can take great pride," said Carlos Ghosn. "We have been working tirelessly to make this day a reality - the unveiling of a real-world car that has zero - not simply reduced - emissions. It's the first step in what is sure to be an exciting journey - for people all over the world, for Nissan and for the industry."
With no tail pipe and no emission, the car can be charged up to 80 per cent of its full capacity in just under 30 minutes with a quick charger. Charging at home through a 200V outlet is estimated to take approximately eight hours for an overnight charge.
Nissan has not set a price for the Leaf, but said pricing details will be announced closer to start of sales in late 2010. However, the company expects the car to be competitively priced in the range of a well-equipped petrol-powered car. The price of the car will exclude the battery, which consumers will have to lease separately from the car maker.
In a most ambitious production plan ever for an electric car, Nissan plans to manufacture 200,000 units annually by 2012 and then make it available in the global market.
Compared to its Japanese rivals, Nissan aims to outdo the production targets set by Toyota and Honda in electric cars, although it had moved very slowly in the hybrid version.
Nissan, which is 44-per cent owned by France's Renault, had announced last month that it plans to build two plants for the production of lithium-ion batteries for electric cars in the UK and Portugal, for their ''zero emission mobility programme'' in Europe. (See: Nissan -Renault alliance to build electric car battery plants in UK and Portugal)
The car maker plans to build a factory in Sunderland, northeast England, at a cost of €200 million while it has yet to decide on the location of the planned factory in Portugal, but it has estimated that the cost would be around €250 million.
Portugal had signed an agreement with Renault and Nissan in late 2008 to supply and promote zero-emission electric cars by 2011 in a bid to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent by the year 2020, as proposed by the European Union in its plan to fight global warming. (See: Portugal to start mass use of electric cars by 2011)
Portugal is one of the first countries in the world to have a nationwide charging network for electric vehicles, named Mobi-E'. It will have an extensive network of 1,300 recharging stations over the next two years and has already signed an agreement with 25 cities, key motorways, and parking players aiming to cover the country.
Nissan has also signed with Israel, Singapore, the US and Japan for setting up electric recharging stations.