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Nissan Motor Co Ltd announced Oct 22, 2010, that it started the production of the Leaf electric vehicle (EV) at the Oppama Plant in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan.

The company will launch the EV in Japan and the US in December 2010 and in Europe in early 2011. It will start exporting the EV to the US in November and to the Europe in December.

The Leaf is produced on the same production line as the Juke compact sports crossover and the Cube compact car. A battery pack is attached to the Leaf at the station where fuel tanks are mounted on the gasoline vehicles. And the EV is equipped with a motor and inverter at the station where engines are attached to the gasoline vehicles.

Automotive Energy Supply Corp (AESC), a joint venture of Nissan and NEC Corp, manufactures the lithium-ion (Li-ion) rechargeable battery module of the Leaf at the Zama Operations until four pieces of cells are embedded in a module and ships it to Nissan. Then, at the Oppama Plant, Nissan packages 48 modules in a battery pack and attaches it to the Leaf.

At the Oppama Plant, 50,000 units of the Leaf can be produced in a year. And Nissan will start producing the EV at the Smyrna plant in the US in the latter half of 2012 and at the Sunderland plant in the UK in early 2013. When fully operated, they can produce about 150,000 and 50,000 EVs per year, respectively.

Nissan considers the Oppama Plant as the mother plant for the production of the Lear and plans to utilize the know-how and data accumulated at the plant for establishing production bases outside Japan.