World Car of the Year Award for Nissan LEAF

At the New York International Auto Show, the 100-percent electric, zero-emission Nissan LEAF was named 2011 World Car of the Year on Thursday, edging out the BMW 5-Series and the Audi A8 for the top spot, according to Nissan.

The award is the latest in a string of accolades for the world’s first affordable mass-market, all-electric vehicle for the global market, which was also named European Car of the Year, says Nissan.

“It is a great joy that the world’s first, mass-marketed electric vehicle, the Nissan LEAF, has won the prestigious award of 2011 World Car of the Year,” said Nissan chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn.

“This accolade recognizes Nissan LEAF, a pioneer in zero-emission mobility, as comparable in its driving performance, quietness and superb handling to gas-powered cars. And it validates Nissan’s clear vision and the values of sustainable mobility that we want to offer to customers around the world.”

The company has also introduced Nissan LEAF NISMO RC. As indicted by the “RC” – for Racing Competition – this new electric vehicle, which made its world debut at the 2011 New York International Auto Show on April 20th, is purpose-built to bring new meaning to the term “Racing Green,” says Nissan. (Read: Nissan LEAF NISMO RC for the Race Track)

Recently, Signatech Nissan enjoyed a podium finish upon its debut in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) with the team finishing second in the LMP2 class at the Mobile One 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida, the opening race of the 2011 ILMC season. (Read: Nissan Returns to Sports Car Racing)

Moreover, automaker Nissan said it may be a concept, but the Nissan ESFLOW electric sports car proves it’s possible to remain environmentally sympathetic without having to give up the joy of driving. With technology used in the Nissan LEAF, the EV (Electric Vehicle) concept shows that driving can still be as much fun tomorrow as it is today, the company claimed. (Read: Nissan Rolls Out Electric Sports Car Concept)

Construction is progressing on Nissan’s manufacturing facility in Smyrna, Tenn., which will produce lithium-ion batteries to power the Nissan LEAF zero-emission vehicle. The all-electric Nissan LEAF will be produced at Nissan’s vehicle assembly facility in Smyrna beginning in 2012. (Read: Nissan Electric Vehicle Battery Plant in Tennessee)

In a related development, Portugal received delivery of the first 10 electric vehicles in Europe from Nissan as recognition of the country’s work in electric mobility with the MOBI.E Programme.

The Prime Minister José Socrates was one of the ten recipients and will now travel exclusively by Electric Car for his official travels around the capital city. (Read: Portuguese Prime Minister to Use Electric Car)

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Also, the first new Mercedes-Benz F-CELL hydrogen-powered B-Class vehicles are now available to California residents, making emission-free driving a reality. (Read: Mercedes-Benz Delivers Zero-Emission Vehicle)

Among the other automakers, Toyota has announced that coinciding with the arrival of the RAV4 EV in 2012, it will launch, in key global markets, the Prius PHV (plug-in hybrid) and a small EV (Electric Vehicle) commuter vehicle. (Read: Toyota Plans to Produce New Electric Vehicles)

Today, automobile vendors believe that sales of traditional vehicles will peak before 2020 and are looking to EVs as one of the next hot products. However, they will first have to address stringent consumer requirements about EV performance, recharging, and convenience.

This is revealed by tech company IBM with its new survey of consumer attitudes and a recent study of auto industry executives. (Read: Bumpy Roads Ahead for Electric Cars)

The World Car Awards jurors observed that, “The LEAF is the gateway to a brave new electric world from Nissan. It feels just like a normal car, only quieter.”

The World Car of the Year competition was launched in 2004, with winners chosen by a panel of automotive journalists from Asia, Europe and North America.

Nissan LEAF is available in Japan, the United States and select European markets and will be released in other global markets in 2012.

The vehicle is currently built at Nissan’s Oppama, Japan plant. It also will be manufactured at the company’s Smyrna, Tenn., plant in the United States in late 2012 and at Nissan’s Sunderland plant in the United Kingdom by early 2013.

Aiming to be the world leader in zero-emission vehicles, Nissan, with its Alliance partner, Renault, has formed partnerships with more than 90 governments, cities and other organizations around the world not only to develop and produce EV (electric vehicle) and lithium-ion batteries but also to promote sustainable mobility.

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Rakesh Raman