Orders for Nissan Electric Car Approach 4,000

In a departure from the usual makeup of electric vehicle buyers, 64% are from individual consumers while 36% are fleet customers.

In Japan orders for Nissan's electric car have reached 3,754 in three weeks, more than half its target for the entire year, underlining growing consumer interest in the green vehicles.

Nissan Motor Co. is planning to sell 6,000 of the zero-emission Leaf electric vehicles in Japan during this fiscal year, which ends March 31, 2011.

The Leaf has been outselling the i-MiEV, the electric vehicle from Japanese rival Mitsubishi Motors Corp., which has drawn 2,000 orders so far.

In a departure from the usual makeup of electric vehicle buyers, some 64% of the orders for the Leaf are from individual consumers -- about a third of them 60 or older -- while 36% are fleet customers. Electric cars, still viewed by many as experimental, usually get more orders from government agencies and companies than individuals.

Yokohama-based Nissan, which is allied with Renault SA of France, began taking orders for the Leaf in April and deliveries are set for December. Global mass marketing is scheduled for 2012.

The arrival of the Leaf, as well as its rivals, has made electric vehicles more accessible, especially because of their relatively affordable pricing.

The Leaf's price falls to 3 million yen ($32,000) with Japanese government incentives, and it's just over $25,000 in the U.S. with federal tax credits.

In response to the Leaf's price, Mitsubishi lowered the i-MiEV price to 2.8 million yen ($30,000) with government subsidies.

Others are joining the race.

Chinese automaker BYD has also started retail sales of its new electric car, the F3DM, for the equivalent of $25,000. Ford Motor Co. is planning an all-electric Focus for late 2011, and Toyota Motor Corp. has promised an electric vehicle for 2012.

Nissan has long focused on electric vehicles as its primary green technology after falling behind Toyota and Honda Motor Co. in hybrids. The Renault-Nissan alliance has signed electric vehicle partnerships with more than 50 governments.

The Leaf has a range of 160 kilometers or 100 miles on a single charge.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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