Nissan may sell EVs to U.S. consumers in 2010

Automaker announces partnership with utility for electric hookups

Nissan North America could launch U.S. retail sales of electric vehicles as early as 2010 -- two years sooner than expected.

For the past year, the company has been saying it will start EV fleet sales to utilities and other commercial users in 2010 and consumer retail EV sales through its dealer network two years later.

But Mark Perry, director of product planning and strategy for the automaker in Franklin, Tenn., says some U.S. markets probably will be ready for retail sales sooner than 2012.

"We're keeping ourselves open to the possibility that if a market is ready for it, we'll go ahead earlier," Perry says. "If the demand is already there, there's no need for us to wait until 2012."

Nissan plans to sell a line of new electric vehicles powered by a lithium ion battery created through a partnership with NEC of Japan. The automaker has requested a low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Energy to build an EV battery manufacturing plant in Smyrna, Tenn.

Perry says Nissan will not try to launch EV sales throughout the entire United States but will launch sales city by city as communities get their vehicle recharging infrastructure in place.

Nissan announced today that it has formed a partnership with San Diego Gas & Electric, the utility company for San Diego, to prepare that city for EV transportation. Nissan will participate in a working group that will make decisions about how to build a recharging infrastructure in the San Diego region. The undertaking also will involve working with city planning and zoning authorities on how to go about installing home recharging systems.

It is the fifth such partnership Nissan has started in recent months. Similar partnerships have been created with Tennessee; Oregon; Sonoma County, Calif.; and Tucson, Ariz.

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