Nissan to Sell Leaf Electric Car in Japan in December

Company plans to sell 6,000 cars in Japan in 2011 and will begin selling in North America and Europe in early 2011

As Nissan tries to get a foothold in the growing green car market, the company announced on March 30 that it will start selling its zero-emission Leaf electric car in Japan from December.

The automaker, which is 44% owned by Renault, said the car would cost 3.76 million yen (US$40,700), but the price would fall to 2.99 million yen when government incentives are included. Last year the government launched a campaign to revive flagging auto sales and boost environmentally friendly cars through tax breaks and cash-back programs.

Nissan, Japan's third-largest carmaker, is banking on electric vehicles (EVs) to boost its growth and will compete with Mitsubishi Motors' i-MiEV and Fuji Heavy, which makes the Subaru Plug-in Stella.

Toyota, the world's largest car maker, has focused on petrol-electric hybrids such as the Prius, Japan's best-selling car since early last year, but has also promised to launch its own EV by 2012.

Nissan describes its Leaf, a mid-sized hatchback, as "the world's first affordable, zero-emission car". It can travel more than 160 kilometers (100 miles) on a single charge, at a top speed of 140 kilometers per hour.

The company calculated that over six years a driver would pay 86,000 yen in electricity costs based on 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) a month of driving -- compared to about 670,000 yen in fuel costs for a conventional gasoline-powered car.

Owners will be able to recharge the battery at home through the domestic power supply in about eight hours, or top it up to 80% capacity in around 30 minutes at electric recharging stations, according to Nissan.

"While a car in a similar class emits around 10 tons of carbon dioxide in the course of six years, Nissan Leaf produces zero emissions while driving," said Takao Katagiri, senior vice president for sales and marketing in Japan.

Nissan said it will start taking Leaf pre-orders in Japan on April 1.

It aims to sell 6,000 units in Japan in the year ending March 2011 and is expected to begin sales in North America and Europe sometime early next year, before wider global sales kick off in 2012, a company spokesman said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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