Building the Leaf in Tennessee helped Nissan sell more of the all-electric car in the US in March than in any other month. The start of production in the UK, in Nissan's Sunderland plant, has been in the planning stages for a while and today's official start of production means the world's best-selling all-electric vehicle is now being made on three continents (since 2010, the Leaf has been made in Japan). The Sunderland plant was opened in 1986, and Nissan invested £420 million ($635 million US) so it can build the Leaf and its battery there. Nissan claims the expansion will, "support more than 2,000 jobs in the UK automotive industry," 500 of those at Nissan.
Global production isn't the only thing that's new. Sunderland will build the 2013 Leaf, which has (in the UK, at least) 100 updates, the most important of which are more range (now up to 123 miles) and a shorter recharge time (half as long as a first-gen Leaf took). The European Leaf also gets special suspension settings, "specifically tailored for European roads." We hope the button to engage this looks like cobblestones. You can read about the US updates to the 2013 Leaf here.
Nissan Press Release:
NISSAN LAUNCHES PRODUCTION OF NEW AND IMPROVED 100% ELECTRIC NISSAN LEAF IN SUNDERLAND, UK
100% electric LEAF goes into production at Nissan Sunderland Plant
Improved model with more than 100 updates, longer range and quicker charging
Announcement represents £420m investment in UK battery and LEAF production
Production to support more than 2,000 jobs in the UK automotive industry
UK Government thanked for continuing support and investment
Sunderland (March 28, 2013) – Nissan is today celebrating the dawn of a bold new era in European car manufacturing with the official start of production of the new and improved, 100% electric Nissan LEAF.
This new Nissan LEAF, incorporating more than 100 updates, is now rolling off the line at the company's record-breaking Sunderland Plant, using advanced lithium-ion batteries manufactured in Nissan's new UK Battery Plant.
Today marks the culmination of four years of preparation at the plant and a previously announced £420m investment by Nissan. Together the Battery Plant and Nissan LEAF production are supporting jobs for more than 2,000 people in the UK car industry, including more than 500 directly at Nissan.
Nissan's continuing innovation means the world's best-selling electric vehicle is now even better. The new LEAF for 2013 has more than 100 updates aimed at making Nissan's zero-emissions technology accessible to even more European drivers, including an increased driving range of 199km (123 miles) and the ability to recharge in half the time of the first-generation LEAF.
UK Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. David Cameron said: "Nissan's record breaking year last year is a success story for UK volume car manufacturing and demonstrates how our automotive industry is competing and thriving in the global race. I warmly welcome the production of the new electric LEAF model and battery plant at Sunderland. This £420 million investment, backed by Government, is supporting over 2,000 jobs in our automotive sector including more than 500 at Nissan in Sunderland, helping people in the area who want to work hard and get on.
"The Government has committed £400 million to make the UK a leading market for ultra low carbon vehicles. Nissan's announcement shows the confidence the company has in the skills-base and the business environment in the UK and that the UK is open for business."
This historic launch event comes as Nissan Sunderland Plant celebrates making more than seven million units since its opening in 1986. Last year it produced 510,572 vehicles and so became the first UK car factory ever to make more than half a million cars in one year.
Nissan's Executive Vice President Andy Palmer celebrated the official start of electric vehicle production with the 6,100 staff now employed on site. "Today's announcement progresses Nissan's unwavering commitment to zero emissions motoring.
"The Nissan LEAF is our most technically advanced car yet and the launch of this new model, built along with its batteries in Sunderland, is a huge boost not only for the plant but for British manufacturing. We have been showing that you can operate a world-beating plant in the UK for almost 30 years and the construction of the Battery Plant is a vote of confidence in the country's ability to support high-technology manufacturing."
"We could not have reached this point without the support and commitment we have enjoyed from Governments across Europe, especially the British Government, who are backing the car industry on manufacturing and charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. I would also like to once again place on record our thanks to our many partners and their strong belief in zero-emissions motoring."
With more than 55,000 Nissan LEAFs on the world's roads today, and with two years of real-world zero emissions experience behind it, today's announcement marks the start of an exciting chapter for Nissan. The Nissan LEAF now is built in three locations worldwide: Sunderland, UK; Smyrna, Tennessee, USA; and Oppama, Japan.
The launch of three new grades, new interior trim, the addition of Nissan's Around View Monitor technology and new suspension settings specifically tailored for European roads build on the LEAF's unique driving experience. This new package gives customers in Europe a second generation zero-emissions car, before most companies have even launched their first electric vehicle.
Integrated on the same line as the best-selling Nissan Qashqai, the new LEAF is a major milestone in Nissan's global zero-emission leadership. In just 12 months, Nissan has increased the number of dealers selling the LEAF from 200 to 1,400 and the number of charging points in Europe has grown from 12,000 to more than 20,000, proving that electric vehicles are becoming increasingly attractive.
The new Nissan LEAF soon will be joined by all-electric versions of the award-winning NV200, to be called e-NV200, in both light commercial van and five-seat combi versions. Development of a dedicated EV taxi based on the e-NV200 is also under way. An Infiniti EV is expected in 2015.
Source: AutoBlog Green