Last night, Nissan Motor Co. officially kicked off production of its battery-powered Leaf at the company's facility in Oppama, Japan. The Leaf is slated to go on sale this December in both the U.S. and Japan. Production Leafs will roll out the doors of the Oppama plant and board ships for export to the U.S. in November.

Portions of the Oppama plant have been modified to accommodate production of the Leaf. The assembly line area that is typically used to install fuel tanks into conventional vehicles received modifications that allow workers to mount the Leaf's 24 kWh battery pack in its final resting place underneath the vehicle. The Leaf's motors and inverters get dropped in at the same stage of assembly as traditional vehicles would receive their gasoline-fueled engines.

The Oppama plant has enough capacity to produce 50,000 Leafs per year. Future production sites for the Nissan Leaf include Smyrna, TN and Sunderland, England. The Tennessee site should be Leaf-ready by late 2012 and the Sunderland plant is expected to come online in early 2013. Both sites should provide a significant, and hopefully much needed, boost in production capacity. Hit the jump for more on the production of the Nissan Leaf and click here to watch the assembly process.

[Source: Nissan]


PRESS RELEASE

Production of 100% Electric, Zero-Emission Nissan LEAF begins at Oppama, Japan


Exports to start in November for World's First Mass-Market Priced, Family-Sized EV

YOKOHAMA, Japan (Oct. 22, 2010) - Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. has started production at its Oppama facility for the all-new 100% electric, zero-emission Nissan LEAF, which is slated to go on sale in December in Japan and the United States, and from early 2011, in select markets in Europe. In November, the company will begin exports to the United States, followed by shipments to Europe in December.

"This is a significant milestone, not only for Nissan and the Renault-Nissan Alliance, but also for the entire automotive industry," said Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn at the Nissan LEAF offline ceremony. "Consumers are clear. They want sustainable and affordable mobility...and the Alliance is leading the way with cars that deliver exactly that, with the reliability, excitement and performance that consumers demand. The high-quality, innovative Nissan LEAF will radically transform what consumers expect from automobile manufacturers worldwide."

Nissan LEAF will be produced at the Oppama Plant along with popular gasoline models such as Nissan Juke and Nissan Cube. Part of the assembly line has been modified to mount battery modules at the stage of production where fuel tanks are traditionally installed, and motors and inverters are mounted at the point where engines are installed in gasoline-powered vehicles. Production quality and efficiency are assured by applying the Nissan Production Way (NPW) in every step of the assembly process.

Nissan LEAF's lithium-ion battery modules are manufactured at the Automotive Energy Supply Corporation (AESC) operation in Zama, Japan, which is a joint-venture of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. and NEC Corporation. The battery module, which contains 4 battery cells, are assembled at Zama and then shipped to the Nissan Oppama facility, where 48 of them are assembled into the electric car's battery pack.

Hidetoshi Imazu, Executive Vice President of Manufacturing, said, "Oppama will serve as the 'Mother Plant' for the production of Nissan LEAF. We will use all of the know-how and learnings from Oppama to ensure the highest quality at all sites that manufacture Nissan EVs."

Sites for future production of Nissan EVs include Smyrna, Tennessee, in the United States and Sunderland, England, in the UK.

The Oppama plant has an annual production capacity of 50,000 units. Nissan LEAF will start production at Smyrna in late 2012 and at Sunderland in early 2013. At full ramp up, Smyrna will have an annual production capacity of 150,000 units, and Sunderland will have a capacity of 50,000 units.

Nissan LEAF is the first 100% electric, zero-emission vehicle to be produced for the Renault-Nissan Alliance. Nissan, together with its Alliance partner, Renault, aims to be a global leader in zero-emission mobility. To date, the Alliance has signed 80 partnerships for zero-emission mobility with governments, municipalities and companies worldwide.