Nissan has been producing Leaf electric cars in its Kanagawa facility for export to the US and for sale within Japan since late last year. From January 25th JST, it opened up its facility to the public for the first time.
Interestingly, Nissan seems to be hedging its bets somewhat in that this is not a pure electric-vehicle-only assembly plant in that this facility also fits engines to gasoline engine vehicles. This is a smart move in that it creates a degree of flexibility in the production process, allowing it to match production of each kind of vehicle more closely to demand, while ensuring the plant runs at an optimum level of capacity.
Currently it is producing 2000 Leafs per month, but this is expected to rise to about 4000 per month as Nissan targets 50,000 per year from this plant alone. New facilities to produce the Leaf are expected to open in the US in 2012 and the UK in 2013. Will this be enough production capacity, though? As of the time of writing, the 6000 units allocated to the Japanese market up to the end of March are all reserved. Those plants cannot come on line too soon it seems.
The video below gives a good overview of the production process as filmed in this Kanagawa plant. Sorry, the subtitles on the video are in Japanese, but to be honest a lot of what you can see is fairly self-explanatory. This video also shows the regular gasoline-engine cars being assembled along side the electric Leafs.
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