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Nissan Leaf a sell-out

Despite the fact it has not even gone on sale in its key markets it is a sell-out in the United States and Japan.  Nissan dealers in the US hold 13,000 pre-orders for the cars, with customers putting down $US99 refundable deposits to reserve a vehicle.  In Japan 6000 people have put deposits on cars.

The plug-in Leaf goes on sale in both countries later this year and is due to hit local Nissan showrooms some time in 2012.  The company is aiming to sell 50,000 electric cars in the US, Europe and Japan next year.  It is currently installing fast-charging stations at all 2200 Nissan dealerships in Japan, which allows the car to be charged to 80 per cent capacity in 30 minutes.

The Tiida-size Leaf hatch is the first of several Nissan and Renault EV vehicles planned.  By 2013, the company has plans to build eight electric vehicles, including sedans and commercial vehicles.

Nissan has just announced pricing for the Leaf in Europe.  In most of its European launch markets it will cost under $45,000 after government incentives, about the same as a comparably-equipped diesel or hybrid car.

The Leaf uses a lithium-ion electric motor to produce 80kW/280Nm. It has a range of about 160km and top speed of 140km/h.  The Nissan-Renault chief executive officer, Carlos Ghosn, told the Detroit Economic Club last week that it wants to sell 500,000 electric cars by 2012.

However, some critics argue that he is being overly optimistic, given obvious shortcomings of pure-EV cars like their higher cost and range compared to conventional petrol or diesel vehicles.  "We understand that when you go into innovation or new technology, some people are more bullish and some are more bearish," Ghosn says.

"Five hundred thousand units is only 0.8 percent or 0.9 percent of the car market."  Ghosn is trying to sell more electric cars through both companies than the sales forecasts of its rivals.

General Motors is aiming to built 45,000 of its Volt electric car, which also uses petrol, annually by 2012. California-based start-up Tesla Motors Inc, which already builds the electric Roadster, wants to sell about 20,000 of its Model S family sedan in 2012.