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Nissan’s Mixim electric concept

The vehicle will be sized between Nissan’s Sentra and Versa

Promises about electric vehicles are a dime a dozen, and so far no one – not even Tesla – has managed to deliver a real daily-driving production car in volume. That’s not stopping Nissan’s product planning director Mark Perry from confirming a 2010 U.S. launch for a five-seat electric car.

Not even the terrible economy has put a damper on the plans – in part because Nissan is pitching the EV as a way to save cash. Between maintenance costs that Perry told the Chattanooga Free Times Press will be $1,350 lower annually and a $7,500 tax credit that the car will be eligible for, the $28,000-$30,000 EV could be a way to stretch budgets.

To get the cars on the road Nissan is working with its several planned launch locations to help build a charging network. That network is there to help combat what Perry calls “range anxiety”, though with the 100mi (160km) range expected of the car, city drivers shouldn’t be too worried about not making it home on a charge.

Nissan hasn’t released any details on the car, but piecing together claims made over the last several years, we expect the car to feature a leased battery pack to help keep initial prices down and make replacement easier. Fragments of the plan were revealed last November when launch markets in Sonoma, CA and Portland, WA revealed their involvement. Chattanooga, TN is also one of the launch locations since it’s the company’s U.S. HQ.

The Mixim electric concept, pictured, was shown at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show, and could preview the general design direction of the EV. Styling cues that at the time looked somewhat out of place in Nissan’s line now echo the 370Z and GT-R as well as the Denki Cube concept EV, though the tiny size of the Mixim is likely a bit smaller than the production EV’s footprint. The Denki Cube itself isn’t expected to be the basis for the production vehicle, in part since the conventional gasoline-powered Cube has now been introduced to the U.S. market

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Nissan’s new all-electric car to be sold starting late next year will have 100 miles (160 kilometers) of pure battery range, a Nissan North America planning director said.

Product planning and strategy director Mark Perry also told the Chattanooga Engineers Club that the company wants to eventually make the car that will run on a lithium ion battery pack and the batteries at its plant in Smyrna. The car will initially be made in Japan.

Perry told the engineers’ group Monday that Tennessee is to be a launch market for the all-electric car after it arrives in late 2010, along with Oregon and Sonoma County, California.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that Perry said the car will seat five.

Nissan’s North America headquarters is in Franklin.

Perry said that while the cost of a conventional vehicle of similar size may range from $28,000 to $30,000, the U.S. government is offering a tax credit of up to $7,500 on the electric car. He said annual maintenance costs will be about $1,350 less for a pure electric vehicle than a conventional car.

“The payback is immediate,” Perry said. He estimated the cost to “fill the tank” at about 90 cents, and said it will take about four to eight hours to do so at a residence.

Perry said plans are to reduce that time frame to four hours in 2012.

Nissan NA spokesman Fred Standish previously said the company submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Energy for a share of the government’s $25 billion loan program intended to help automakers retool their plants to build more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Standish said the Smyrna plant, built in 1983, is the only one of Nissan’s three plants in the U.S. that would meet the loan’s criteria.

The Energy Department has received dozens of applications for the loan program, including requests from Detroit’s automakers, Tesla Motors Inc., which builds an all-electric two-seat sports car, and several battery manufacturers.

A top Nissan official in the U.S. said Monday that Tennessee is one of the first locations where it will sell its new all-electric car after it arrives in late 2010.

Also, the company eventually would like to make the car and its batteries in Smyrna, Tenn., and the Chattanooga area is in line for electric refueling infrastructure for the new vehicle, said Mark Perry, director of product planning and strategy for Nissan North America.

“Tennessee will be a launch market,” said Mr. Perry, additionally mentioning Oregon and Sonoma County, Calif.

The car will seat five and be in the size range of a Sentra or Versa, he told the Chattanooga Engineers Club.

“It will have 100 miles of pure battery range,” Mr. Perry said. He said Toyota’s 2010 Prius hybrid electric gets about 10 miles range on pure battery, while the planned Chevy Volt will get 40.

Mr. Perry said the Nissan, running on a lithium ion battery pack, won’t be a test model.

“We’re ready to go mass production and mass sales,” he said.

The Nissan official said that while the cost for a conventional vehicle of similar size may range from $28,000 to $30,000, the federal government is offering a tax credit of up to $7,500 on the electric. There also will be other steps to lower the buyer’s initial costs.

He said maintenance costs will be about $1,350 lower annually for the pure electric vehicle than a conventional car.

“The pay back is immediate,” Mr. Perry said. He estimated the cost to “fill the tank” in the Tennessee Valley at about 90 cents, and it will take about four to eight hours to do so at a residence.

Mr. Perry said plans are to get that time frame down to four hours in 2012.

Jim Frierson, who directs the Advanced Transportation Technology Institute in Chattanooga, said Nissan’s plans are “music to our ears.”

He said the drive for putting electric vehicles on the road is “the space race of the decade.”

In terms of recharging infrastructure, plans are to start in the Nashville-Murfreesboro-Franklin area. Nissan’s USA headquarters are located in Franklin. Then, plans are to gain infrastructure in Knoxville and Chattanooga and eventually into North Carolina, Mr. Perry said.

While the car will be made in Japan at first, Mr. Perry said the company likes to produce vehicles where they’re purchased.