As improbable as it may seem, a mass-market electric car has taken center stage at Nissan Motor Co.
The Nissan brand remains committed to its traditional sedans, coupes and light trucks. But Nissan also is banking on large-volume sales of affordable electric vehicles, beginning with the 2011 Leaf.
In a May interview, Brian Carolin, senior vice president for North American sales and marketing, said Nissan may create electric versions of its existing big sellers, such as the Altima.
"By the middle of the next decade, or 2015, something on the order of 10 percent of our volume will be EV," Carolin said. "We will see some unique stand-alone EV vehicles. But in the second generation will come the decision to take an existing vehicle and move the powertrain from internal combustion to EV."
Here are Nissan's vehicle plans for the 2010-12 model years.
Leaf: The 2011 Leaf is Nissan's entry into electric-vehicle technology. The five-door hatchback's 80-kilowatt electric motor delivers 206 pounds-feet of torque and a top speed of around 90 mph. The lithium ion batteries will provide a 100-mile range on a full charge. Nissan says the Leaf can be charged up to 80 percent of its capacity in 30 minutes with a quick charger.
The batteries initially will be produced in Japan at a joint venture with NEC Corp., but Nissan will begin making both cars and batteries in Smyrna, Tenn., in 2012.
Nissan has not set the car's price, but the company says it will compete with other mass-market cars in the $25,000-to-$30,000 range.
Versa: The 2010 Versa sees a midcycle freshening with a new grille that draws on the Altima's styling cues. Antilock brakes and stability control are now standard on the 1.8 SL model. A redesign is due for the 2012 model year.
Sentra: The 2010 Sentra receives a freshening with new headlights, taillights, grille and fascia. Stability control is added as standard equipment on the 2.0 SL, SE-R and SE-R Spec V models.
Model changes for 2011 and 2012 are under review. Nissan is looking at economic conditions and the potential impact on sales of the electric Leaf, which is in the Sentra's size class.