OPPAMA, JAPAN - Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. has started production at its Oppama facility for the pure-electric Nissan Leaf, which is slated to go on sale in December in Japan and the United States. 

In November, the company will begin exports to the U.S., followed by shipments to Europe in December. In early 2011, the Leaf will go on sale in select European markets.

"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. "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 Nissan Leaf will be produced at the Oppama plant along with popular gasoline models such as the 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.

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

"Oppama will serve as the 'mother plant' for the production of Nissan Leaf," said Hidetoshi Imazu, executive vice president of manufacturing. "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, Tenn., in the U.S. and Sunderland, England, in the U.K.

The Oppama plant has an annual production capacity of 50,000 units. The 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-percent electric, zero-emission vehicle to be produced for the Renault-Nissan Alliance. To date, the alliance has signed 80 partnerships with governments, municipalities and companies worldwide.