Nissan to sell electric car in Japan for $40,000

Nissan Motor Co. said Tuesday its new electric car, the LEAF, will start at 3.76 million yen ($40,000) in Japan, aiming to put zero-emission cars within reach of drivers around the world.

The U.S. sale price for the LEAF will be announced later Tuesday. Deliveries of the car will start in December and customers in Japan will be able to place orders starting April 1, Japan’s No. 3 automaker said.

The company said had it already received tentative orders for 9,300 of the curvaceous four-door hatchbacks.

Nissan said if current Japanese government incentives continue, the LEAF will be eligible for a 770,000 yen credit, making the price 2.99 million yen in Japan.

The LEAF would be cheaper than Mitsubishi Motor’s i-MiEV electric car, which costs 4.59 million yen ($50,000). Japan’s No. 4 automaker began selling the model in Japan last year and sold 1,400 in Japan between July 2009 and March 2010, and 250 during the same period abroad, mainly in Britain and Hong Kong. The i-MiEV will be start to be sold in the U.S. next month.

The LEAF has a range of 100 miles (160 kilometers) on a single battery charge. Nissan estimated that over six years of ownership, the electricity cost for running the car would be 86,000 yen. That compares with an estimate of 670,000 yen of gasoline cost for a similar class of vehicle, the company said.

Nissan’s CEO Carlos Ghosn, who also heads France’s Renault, has been a vocal proponent of electric vehicles. While Toyota Motor Corp. has staked out a leadership position in the market for hybrids, which use a gasoline engine as well as an electric motor, Nissan is striving to become a global leader in electric vehicles.

Japanese auto industry officials believe the time may be ripe for electric vehicles to catch on among ordinary consumers given concerns about emissions and dependence on oil. But there are still several obstacles that need to be overcome, including better battery technology, high production costs and having recharging stations in convenient locations.

So far, electric vehicles have been largely experimental. In Japan, the main users are government-linked groups. Japan’s government has made reducing greenhouse gases a pillar of its policy, and has encouraged the production of electronic vehicles as a way to achieve that.

In March, Nissan, Toyota, Mitsubishi Motors and Fuji Heavy Industries, which makes Subaru brand cars, and a major Tokyo power company set up a group of 160 business and government organizations to promote electric vehicles by standardizing recharging machines and marketing the technology abroad.

Associated Press