Nissan starts producing 2013 Leaf at Smyrna plant

Article by Anita Panait, on January 11, 2013

Nissan will start the US production of the 2013 Nissan Leaf at its Smyrna plant in Tennessee this week. The start of the Nissan Leaf at the Smyrna plant assembly coincides with the opening of the carmaker’s battery plant in an adjacent facility. Nissan is the sole carmaker that produces its own electric vehicle batteries at what is considered as the largest lithium-ion automotive battery plant in the United States.

Susan Brennan, Nissan's vice president of manufacturing in Smyrna, remarked that the shift of the 2013 Nissan Leaf to the Smyrna plant is testament to the “flexibility, efficiency and talent” of the carmaker’s US workforce. She noted that the Leaf has met or exceeded every one of the plant’s rigorous quality requirements.

While the Leaf is considered as a revolutionary vehicle, its assembly requirements are more similar to those of its traditional siblings like the Altima and Maxima with which it shares a production line. To add the Leaf to the Smyrna manufacturing environment, a few process modifications is needed like the addition of quality confirmation for electric vehicles and special training for technicians.

Brennan added that Nissan’s Smyrna plant strives to create new internal benchmarks in efficiency with each new model. She remarked that by assembling the Leaf on the Altima and Maxima line, the site could cut costs by using existing equipment.

Brennan cited that gas-powered vehicles receive fuel tanks and internal combustion engines on the line while the Nissan Leaf receives gets a lithium-ion battery pack from its battery plant next door, as well as an electric motor built at the Nissan powertrain plant in Decherd, Tenn. She remarked that they have localized US manufacturing of the Leaf's major components.

In developing the new Nissan LEAF, both the design team and engineering team wanted a real-world vehicle that would be competitively priced. It was also expected to be a vehicle that would allow the brand to take the lead when it came to zero-emission mobility. Not only that, Nissan also wanted a car that would be able to deliver on comfort while being able to offer a good amount of space and exceptional cargo capacity.

To make this happen, Nissan needed to implement a new layout for the body and put in an entirely new chassis. When it came to the LEAF, the idea behind it was that no matter how small something is, it can still result in a large impact. The front section for example has been styled to have the upright and sharp V-shaped design. It comes with long headlights that utilize light-emitting diodes and that are positioned in an up-slanted manner.

By making use of that blue internal reflective style, it makes the LEAF give the statement of being truly special. Still, the headlights are not just about style and they also offer an important function. They have been designed in a way that they split the airflow and then redirect it away from the vehicle’s door mirrors. This results in the LEAF experiencing less drag and even lowering the wind noise.

In addition, since the headlights use LEDs, it means that the electricity they use is merely at 10% of what standard lamps use. With this, the LEAF is able to get that first-rate range autonomy. Product Chief Designer Masato INOUE revealed that the brand wanted this model to be a practical and medium-sized EV. He added that Nissan also wanted the LEAF to be the first EV that customers could afford and prefer to drive daily.

This is exactly what the LEAF is, he continued. Further, Masato INOUE said, the style will not only make the LEAF immediately recognizable but also allow customers to be part of this new era of vehicles displaying zero-emission.

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