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EXP-NISSAN-NYT 05-12 Web

Nissan plans electric car by 2010

DETROIT — Nissan Motor Co. plans to sell an electric car in the United States and Japan by 2010, raising the stakes in the race to develop environmentally friendly vehicles.

The commitment, announced today by Nissan’s chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, will be the first by a major automaker to bring a zero-emission vehicle to the American market. Nissan also expects to sell a lineup of electric vehicles globally by 2012.

In an interview Monday, Ghosn said Nissan decided to accelerate development of battery-powered vehicles because of high gasoline prices and environmental concerns, not just because of the need to meet stricter fuel-economy standards.

"What we are seeing is that the shifts coming from the markets are more powerful than what regulators are doing," he said.

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Ghosn said Nissan envisioned a broad range of electric vehicles, starting with small cars, and added: "It’s not only about a small city car or a small minivan. It can also be about a small commercial vehicle and a small crossover."

Other automakers like Mitsubishi Motors and Fuji Heavy Industries are testing versions of electric cars, and General Motors and Toyota are working on battery-powered vehicles that have small gasoline engines for recharging. GM plans to start producing the Chevrolet Volt in 2010, while Toyota expects to offer a similar so-called "plug in" hybrid around the same time.

But Nissan, which a decade ago was on the brink of bankruptcy, is the first manufacturer to say it will sell mass-market all-electric vehicles worldwide. The zero emissions refers to those from the car’s tailpipe and not those from the production of electricity used to power the car.

"Nissan is upping the ante tremendously," said John O’Dell, senior editor at the auto Web site GreenCarAdvisor.com. "They are the first to put it on the line and say we’re going to have an all-electric vehicle for a certain market by a certain date."

Ghosn declined to disclose details of the electric products and said initial quantities would be small. "We’re talking about hundreds of vehicles first," he said. But he said that the company was determined to achieve "zero-emission-vehicle leadership."

The goal to sell electric vehicles is part of a new five-year business plan, called Nissan GT 2012, also to be announced Tuesday.

Ghosn declined to say how much electric vehicles would cost, but empasized that they would be affordable and comparable with other vehicles in the marketplace.

"We are not interested in some ‘Star Wars’ prototype," he said, "but in really bringing a mass-market product that everybody can buy. It’s really a new chapter in the life of this industry."

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