Nissan may delay EV production in U.S
Nissan may be forced to delay start of production of the Nissan Leaf in the U.S.and is falling short of this years production goals for the company's first all electric vehicles, a key executive said Monday.
Hideaki Watanabe, Nissan vice president for zero emission vehicles, said Monday the opening of the Leaf assembly line in Smyrna, Tenn. could be delayed because of the fallout from the earthquake and tsunami that devastated part of Japan,
“After March 11, all the resources of the company were devoted to helping with the recovery (in Japan.) This delayed the planning,” he said. “It put us in a very difficult situation,” Watanabe told a group of reporter over lunch at the Nissan Research and Development Center outside in suburban Detroit.
“We’re trying to shorten the delay but I wouldn’t want to make any predictions,” Watanabe said.
So far this year, Nissan has delivered 7,550 electric-powered Leafs to customers in the Japan, the U.S., Hong Kong and Europe. Almost 5,000 of Leafs have been delivered to customers in Japan and more than 66 Leafs were used in three prefectures heavily damaged in the quake and tsunami. The EVs proved to be more practical than gasoline vehicles because they could plug in an recharge in areas where motor fuel was in short supply, said Watanabe, adding Nissan is also now exploring technology that would turn the Leaf and its lithium-ion battery into an emergency generator. The technology would allow the leaf to dischare electricity as well as drawing it in.
The Leaf EVs also survived the electricity shortages because the experience of most owners is the drive less than 60 miles per day and recharge at night when electricity is available, Watanabe said.
About 2,000 Leafs have been delivered to customers in the U.S. and the company still has the names of 22,000 more potential numbers. Filling order has been slower than expected because Nissan won’t be able to meet its production 2011 production target of 50,000 Leafs.
“In 2012, we hope to be in a more normal situation,” he said.
However, Nissan plans to begin distributing the Leaf beyond the original seven states targeted in the initial launch of the vehicle, which included California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Texas and Tennessee. Leafs will be in dealers in a half dozen states along the U.S. Atlantic Seaboard from Florida to Maryland this fall and in all 50 states by the end of 2012, Nissan officials said.
“Even before the earthquake, we decided on a very conservative ramp up. We wanted to double check everything. Quallity is our top priority,” he said.