NASHVILLE -- Nissan North America could launch U.S. retail sales of electric vehicles as early as 2010 -- two years sooner than expected.
For a year, the company has been saying it will start EV fleet sales to utilities and commercial users in 2010 and consumer retail 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.
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 launch sales city by city as communities get their vehicle recharging infrastructure in place.
Separately, a person in Tokyo familiar with the EV project said Nissan is eyeing an electric vehicle with a range of 100 miles between charges. The vehicle will be a family car based on a platform already in use.
The car will be a uniquely designed stand-alone model to make it distinct, much the way the Toyota Prius hybrid called attention to its green credentials with novel styling.
When volume is high enough, Nissan will consider building cars overseas, including the United States.
Hans Greimel in Tokyo contributed to this report