Earthquake in Japan could delay the start of U.S. production of Nissan Leaf

Article by Christian A., on June 13, 2011

Nissan admits that the U.S. production of its Leaf electric vehicle at its plant in Smyrna, Tenn., may be moved later than its schedule of December 2012. Hideaki Watanabe, head of Nissan’s Global Zero Emission Vehicle Business Unit, said that the disaster in Japan put it in a “very difficult situation.”

He said that while Nissan hasn’t given up totally, there’s definitely a potential for delay, something that it’s currently assessing. Watanabe said that Nissan is looking for ways to lessen the lead time.

The lithium ion batteries for the Leaf are expected to start production in Smyrna in September 2012. Nissan is getting a lot of flak for its slow deliveries of the Leaf. Nissan explained that the delays are the result of technical problems and communications issues that were worsened by the earthquake in Japan.

Watanabe said that the company’s internal timetables were disrupted by the disaster. He said that on the day of the earthquake, all operation stopped and resources were concentrated on the recovery of Japan.

He said that Nissan halted all assessments and milestones related to the start of production in the U.S. He didn’t say how delayed it will be though. Nissan is planning to install capacity to produce 150,000 Leafs each year in Tennessee.

Nissan’s officials said that they anticipate the delivery of 10,000 to 12,000 Leafs in the U.S. in 2011. So far, Nissan has taken about 7,000 orders for the vehicle. It estimates that these orders will be filled by the end of summer.

The cabin of the new Nissan LEAF has undergone important changes and these include the new seats. In the front for example, the seats have been redesigned to offer better support. These same seats also have height adjustment integrated to them and in addition, these were reshaped as well to give rear seat passengers an extra leg room of 53 mm.

To attain this, Nissan reprofiled both the front passenger seat and the driver seat. By making sure that those sitting in the rear are able to put their feet under the front seats, it effectively increased the legroom. Going to the outside, Nissan designed the body by implementing the principle known as “smart fluidity.” Thus there is the kicked-up roofline that merges into a large spoiler.

The shape of the LEAF allows it to cheat the wind, so to speak, and this is enhanced even more by the smooth and flat underfloor. Being an electrical vehicle, it is not surprising that no exhaust pipe can be seen on this area. Moving to the front region, the LEAF is framed by the slim and almost vertical headlights. For top models, the headlights will have LED lighting on them.

It is not all about visuals as the headlights are able to direct away from the door mirrors the airflow and thus lower wind noise while also helping with the aerodynamics. Utilizing a bespoke EV platform, the LEAF has a wheelbase that measures 2,700 mm. Overall length is at 4,445 mm, while total width is 1,770 mm, and height is at 1,550 mm. Without question, the highly unique shape is truly aerodynamic.

Compared to the original version, the only visual difference with the new LEAF is the subtle changes done to the grille. However the new LEAF has been fitted with the 17-inch wheel resulting in a lower Cd, which is at 0.28.

Nissan also expanded the available choices for the color. In the past, the color palette was limited to blue pearl metallic, metallic silver, and white pearl. Added are black metallic, grey, red pear metallic, and solid white, resulting in a total selection of seven exterior colors.

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