Leaf EV goes into production at Nissan Sunderland Plant in UK

Article by Christian Andrei, on April 5, 2013

Nissan’s factory in Sunderland, northeast England, has begun production of the Leaf electric car for its markets in Europe. Nissan has been importing the Leaf from Japan. The Leaf has received about a hundred modifications, which include increasing its range from 175km to 199km (124 miles). In a statement, Nissan said that the driving dynamics received revisions so that it could be “more in tune with European tastes."

Nissan said that it has cut production costs for the Leaf by a third. It was able to accomplish this through several ways, one of which is by using steel doors instead of aluminium. David Moss, Nissan's head of vehicle design and development, said that the car is lighter by 30kg due to positioning the charger assembly under the hood.

Nissan has yet to announce the official prices but it has said that the starting price of the entry version in a new, three-spec range will be more affordable than the existing car. Deliveries are set to begin this June. The price of the Leaf has been reduced by 3,000 euros just last January. Factors that have adversely affected the Leaf’s sales include its high price compared with cars powered by gasoline and diesel with the same size.

Market researchers JATO Dynamics said that in 2012, Nissan only sold 5,210 Leafs in Europe. This is much lower than the 9,000 units that Paul Willcox, Nissan Europe sales manager, had forecast. Nissan has yet to announce the production targets for this car built in the UK, along with the Qashqai compact SUV. This factory in Sunderland also manufactures the car's lithium ion batteries.

John Martin, head of manufacturing and supply chain management for Europe, told journalists that the Leaf has a European parts content of 90%. He also revealed that UK content accounted for 34%.

UK Prime Minister,the Rt. Hon. David Cameron said: "Nissan's record breaking year last year is a success story for UK volume car manufacturing and demonstrates how our automotive industry is competing and thriving in the global race. I warmly welcome the production of the new electric LEAF model and battery plant at Sunderland. This £420 million investment, backed by Government, is supporting over 2,000 jobs in our automotive sector including more than 500 at Nissan in Sunderland, helping people in the area who want to work hard and get on. The Government has committed £400 million to make the UK a leading market for ultra low carbon vehicles. Nissan's announcement shows the confidence the company has in the skills-base and the business environment in the UK and that the UK is open for business."

Nissan LEAF is run with lithium-ion batteries that give it more than 90kW of power, supplementing the 80kW of power given by the electric motor. This guarantees fast responses and a fun driving experience that consumers have experienced only with gasoline fueled automobiles.

The LEAF does not have a tailpipe unlike the powertrains of cars with internal-combustion engines, hinting at its zero CO2 emission characteristic. The car’s battery packs and regenerative braking system allow it to have a driving range of at least 160 kilometers on a single charge.

According to extensive consumer studies, this range is enough for everyday driving for more than 70% of drivers around the world.

The Japanese carmaker also made sure that charging is convenient and easy. The LEAF can attain up to 80% of its full charge capacity in less than 30 minutes using the quick charger. If you use the 200V outlet at home, it will take around eight hours, just enough to charge overnight while you sleep.

A Car for the Real World

The designers and engineers who made the LEAF possible have worked to make a real world vehicle that is priced competitively to help the carmaker get some headway into the zero-emission generation. To guarantee spaciousness, comfort and storage capacity, the LEAF has a new body and chassis layout.

Product chief designer Masato Inoue says that the car was positioned to be the first mid-sized electric vehicle that consumers could easily afford and use daily. The car’s styling makes it unmistakable that the car and the driver are both part of the zero-emission world.

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