December 2, 2010

Nissan’s Leaf Expected To Wow Consumers

Nissan is expected to help spark a fire in the auto industry to build greener vehicles as it sees some success with its Leaf electric car.

The Leaf became the first electric vehicle to win European Car of the Year last month.

The vehicle is the Heart of Nissan's green ambition and has already sold out on preorders in Japan and the U.S.

"The Leaf will serve as a standard, a benchmark, for other manufacturers when they build new electric vehicles," said Mamoru Kato, auto analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Center.

The all-electric Leaf is said to be an evolutionary step from petrol-electric hybrid cars made by other automobile companies.

Nissan said the first U.S. shipment of the Leaf has sold out, with the company having received 20,000 orders and separately at least 6,000 more orders in Japan.

The company started mass production of the Leaf in October in Japan and plans to expand production in North America in 2012 and in Europe in 2013.

"This is a significant milestone, not only for Nissan and the Renault-Nissan alliance, but also for the entire automotive industry," Nissan President Carlos Ghosn said at an October ceremony marking the start of production.

The Leaf reaches a top speed of 90 miles-per-hour and can manage 108 miles on a single eight-hour charge.  Its battery can be rapid-charged to 80 percent of capacity in 30 minutes.

Nissan predicts that by 2020 electric cars will account for 10 percent of the global auto market.

American research firm J.D. Power and Associates estimates combined global sales of hybrid and electric vehicles to total 5.2 million units in 2020, 7.3 percent of the global auto market.

However, it also said that the current demand for hybrid and electric vehicles is "over-hyped," adding that the firm did not expect "a mass migration to green vehicles in the coming decades."

The concept of a car that can be charged like a cellphone by plugging it into a wall socket is appealing in the face of rising petrol prices.

Nissan estimates that the cost of a battery charge for the Leaf will only be 13 percent of gasoline cost for conventional vehicles.

Analysts believe that tax breaks and other incentives for green vehicles are expected to reduce the sticker price of $44,700.

Analysts also say that the Leaf's advantage over other electric and hybrid cars on the market lies in its roomy comfort in addition to the silent and powerful performance that has won it rave reviews.

It became the first electric vehicle to receive the 2011 European Car of the Year award.

"In spite of the lack of a large recharging network and the limited range, the Leaf represents a technical and commercial bet that might otherwise satisfy many potential consumers, especially where public incentives will come to reduce the paying price," the award jury said in a statement.


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