Car manufacturer Nissan officially launches production of its 100 per cent electric LEAF car in Sunderland today.
The new model, incorporating more than 100 updates, is now rolling off the line at the company's Sunderland plant, using advanced lithium-ion batteries manufactured in Nissan's new UK battery plant.
The new LEAF for 2013 is aimed at making Nissan's zero-emissions technology accessible to even more European drivers, including an increased driving range of 199km (124 miles) and the ability to recharge in half the time of the first-generation LEAF.
Prime Minister David Cameron says: "Nissan's record breaking year last year is a success story for UK volume car manufacturing and demonstrates how our automotive industry is competing and thriving in the global race.
“I warmly welcome the production of the new electric LEAF model and battery plant at Sunderland. This £420m investment, backed by Government, is supporting over 2,000 jobs in our automotive sector including more than 500 at Nissan in Sunderland, helping people in the area who want to work hard and get on.
"The Government has committed £400m to make the UK a leading market for ultra-low carbon vehicles. Nissan's announcement shows the confidence the company has in the skills-base and the business environment in the UK and that the UK is open for business."
This launch event comes as Nissan’s Sunderland Plant celebrates making more than seven million units since its opening in 1986. Last year it produced 510,572 vehicles and becoming the first UK car factory ever to make more than half a million cars in one year.
Nissan's Executive Vice President Andy Palmer celebrated the official start of electric vehicle production with the 6,100 staff now employed on site.
"Today's announcement progresses Nissan's unwavering commitment to zero emissions motoring,” he said.
"The Nissan LEAF is our most technically advanced car yet and the launch of this new model, built along with its batteries in Sunderland, is a huge boost not only for the plant but for British manufacturing. We have been showing that you can operate a world-beating plant in the UK for almost 30 years and the construction of the Battery Plant is a vote of confidence in the country's ability to support high-technology manufacturing."
More than 55,000 Nissan LEAFs are on the roads globally and it is now built in three locations worldwide: Sunderland, UK; Smyrna, Tennessee, USA; and Oppama, Japan.
The new model includes the launch of three new grades, new interior trim, the addition of Nissan's Around View Monitor technology and new suspension settings specifically tailored for European roads.
The new Nissan LEAF soon will be joined by all-electric versions of the award-winning NV200, to be called e-NV200, in both light commercial van and five-seat combi versions. Development of a dedicated EV taxi based on the e-NV200 is also underway and an Infiniti EV is expected in 2015.
Rhian Kelly, CBI Director for Business Environment, welcomes the news.
“The start of UK production of the first mass-market, pure-electric vehicle is a landmark day for the UK automotive industry, and represents a bold new step towards zero-emissions motoring,” he says.
“The UK has one of the most diverse and productive automotive industries in the world, attracting more than £6bn inward investment in the last two years and generating around £30bn of annual export revenue for the UK economy.
“The much-anticipated automotive industrial strategy must build on this momentum by setting out an ambitious plan to ensure the long-term competitiveness of the UK’s car industry, building the strongest possible supply chain and supporting export growth in global markets.”