Japan’s Nissan Motor Co delivered the first mass-market all-electric car to a technology entrepreneur in California on Saturday as the company tries to get a jump in the nascent green vehicle race.
The first customer, Olivier Chalouhi, has been riding an electric bicycle to work, and he plugged his new car in for the cameras outside San Francisco City Hall. The charge point, one of 400 in the region, had a green official city sign near it that said: “Green Vehicle Showcase: Cars that make a difference.”
The Leaf is one of a handful of mass-market fully electric or extended range plug-in vehicles slated to reach consumers in the next year.
The battery-powered Leaf, with an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-certified battery-only range of 120km is due to hit showrooms this month in a limited roll-out — along with Chevy Volts by General Motors Co. Ford Motor Co expects to deliver its first electric Focus compact cars late next year.
Carlos Taveras, the North American head of Nissan, said his company would focus on satisfying the first 20,000 Leaf customers before opening up for more orders next year.
“We are not in a rush,” he told reporters, reasserting Nissan’s plan to go straight to zero--emission cars, as opposed to the Volt with its gasoline engine that can recharge the battery to give it more range.
Work at Nissan’s Tennessee plant was under way to have production capacity for 100,000 -battery packs by early 2013, Taveras said, though he said that was not an indication of expected demand for the car.
California, the most populous US state, is the biggest market for conventional cars and is expected to be the biggest one for electric vehicles as well. The fact the Leaf is eligible for the California rebate, while the Volt is not, will be a selling point for Nissan.
The Leaf is also set to be delivered to Oregon, Seattle, Tennessee and Arizona, followed by Hawaii and Texas shortly after that.
As a pure electric car, the Leaf tops the Volt in the category on the EPA label that tracks greenhouse gas emissions from the vehicle. Since it carries no combustion engine, the Leaf has no such emissions, although greenhouse gases would be produced by the power plants used to recharge the car.
The Leaf will be priced at about US$32,780 before a federal tax credit can bring the sticker price to about US$25,280 and, in California, a rebate that can reduce it to about US$20,280.
Chevy’s Volt is rated at 52g of carbon dioxide per kilometer, less than one-tenth of the industry’s worst-performing vehicle on that score.
The Volt is designed to run for 56km on a full charge of its 181kg lithium-ion battery pack supplied by a unit of Korea’s LG Chem. After that, a 1.4L engine extends the driving range to about 610km.
GM plans to build 10,000 Volts next year, 45,000 in 2012 and has begun discussing ways it could increase the production should there be more demand.