New Nissan LEAF Plant Prepares For Growth

It was a ground-breaking story in more ways than one: Representatives from Nissan, as well as state and local dignitaries, were on hand recently in Smyrna, Tenn., to celebrate the start of construction for a unique new facility: a plant that will build the advanced lithium-ion batteries needed to power the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle. Combined with the nearby assembly line that will produce the car itself, the new manufacturing site will help bring up to 1,300 new jobs to the Smyrna area—and usher in a whole new era of driving.

That’s because the Leaf is a whole new kind of car. With a 24kWh battery pack under the floor—to allow for optimum passenger and cargo space—the Leaf will offer up to 100 miles of all-electric, no-gasoline-needed driving, at speeds of up to 90 mph. That kind of real-world practicality is a hallmark of Nissan’s zero-emissions vehicle, and it’s something that also shows up in the car’s charging capabilities.

Using a 220/240V home charging station, owners will be able to fully charge their vehicles in about eight hours—essentially overnight. Then, the near future is expected to bring speedy quick-charging units that will be able to provide the Leaf with an 80 percent charge in as few as 30 minutes. And notably, Nissan is working with localities across the country to develop the infrastructure needed to support all-electric motoring.

The Leaf is priced for the real world, too. Its base cost is effectively $25,280, as Nissan will offer the vehicle with an MSRP of $32,780 and the federal government will provide a federal tax credit of $7,500. Additionally, a growing number of state and local governments are also providing added incentives to drivers of electric cars like the Leaf.

That all certainly must have sounded like a winning combination to customers. Even though the Leaf won’t go on sale until 2012, Nissan opened an early registration process for U.S. retail buyers on May 14—and just 12 days later, the first year’s entire allotment of 13,000 vehicles was spoken for

On the other hand, Nissan dealers plan to sell 500,000 electric vehicles the following year and, at this stage, it would be shocking news if they don’t.