Nissan Turning Over New Leafs, and EV Car Owners Are Electrified

12/14/10Follow @bvbigelow

Nissan has begun to deliver production models of its new Leaf all-electric vehicle in California and elsewhere. La Jolla resident Tom Franklin picked up his blue Leaf yesterday afternoon at a dealer in San Diego, just three days after the Japanese carmaker delivered its first 2011 model, a black Leaf SL, to Redwood City, CA, resident Olivier Chalouhi.

“Car deliveries will gradually increase through the end of December, and they will increase each month through 2011,” said Tim Gallagher, a Southern California spokesman for Nissan North America. Nissan has said the Leaf will be manufactured in Japan for the first two years, with production later shifting to Tennessee.

Nissan describes the Leaf as the first mass-market, zero emission, all-electric car, with a top speed of 90 mph. The compact hatchback can go roughly 100 miles on one charge, depending on weather, temperature, and driving conditions.

In a statement last week, Nissan said it is delivering a Leaf EV in each of its primary launch markets in Southern California, Arizona, Oregon, Seattle, and Tennessee (and donating $25,000 to the World Wildlife Fund as an added display of its “green” credentials.)

Nissan says it is on course to make the Leaf EV available nationwide by 2012, with deliveries in Hawaii and Texas expected in early 2011. Nissan officials say the first Leafs went to the Bay Area’s Chalouhi and San Diego’s Franklin because they were the first to reserve the car in their respective markets.

The Japanese carmaker plans to manufacture 50,000 Leafs during its first year of production, and that those cars will be distributed for sale around the world, including to Nissan dealers throughout the United States. A Nissan executive told me in July he expects to sell 3,000 to 4,000 Leaf EVs in San Diego, partly because of early efforts to build out the necessary charging infrastructure here. The Leaf is powered by a 24 kilowatt-hour (kWh) lithium-ion battery pack that weighs 600 pounds and powers an 80-kilowatt AC synchronous electric motor.

As I reported in August, San Diego is one of 16 cities participating in “The EV Project.” Under the program, the U.S. Department of Energy is providing roughly half of the $230 million needed to install almost 15,000 EV charging stations in seven states and the District of Columbia. The EV Project also provides market research funding to identify ways to gain broader market acceptance of electric vehicles throughout the rest of the country. The first Nissan Leaf owners in San Diego (as well as in Phoenix and Tucson) are participating in the project, which Nissan calls “the largest EV infrastructure deployment project ever undertaken.”

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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