Nissan EV-02 prototype at speed

Nissan EV-02 prototype at speed

Just two days ago, we noted that Nissan was granted $1.6 billion of Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loans by the US Department of Energy. It plans to use the money to retool its Smyrna, Tennessee, assembly plant to build electric cars.

Now we learn that the 2012 Nissan EV may be unveiled in Yokohoma, Japan, on August 2. The British Autocar magazine reports the car will be a midsize five-door hatchback, a dedicated electric vehicle that shares no styling with any other Nissan.

The production vehicle is likely to be unveiled either at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September or the Tokyo Motor Show in October. Initial manufacturing is said to be scheduled for late this year or early in 2010 at Nissan's Oppama plant.

Nissan plans to release small numbers of the EV to fleets starting next year, with retail sale to begin in 2012. It hopes to sell up to 100,000 EVs that year, depending on demand, though the first year's production will be 50,000 or fewer vehicles.

The DoE loan guarantees will go not only toward US manufacturing of the 2012 Nissan EV, but also toward production of the vehicle's high-capacity lithium-ion battery--which might later be supplied to other firms beside Nissan.

Left unclear is whether the battery plant will produce the lithium-polymer cells developed by Nissan's joint venture with NEC, known as Automotive Energy Supply Corporation, or only the battery pack that will incorporate those cells.

Last month, we reported on our first drive of the 2012 Nissan EV. Or, more accurately, of that car's electric powertrain, mounted in a previous-generation Nissan Cube that acted as a mule, or prototype vehicle. Our assessment then:

Based on a few loops around a large parking lot, the driving quality was good. The car accelerated quietly and smoothly, and its  performance seemed more than adequate to keep up with traffic.

We look forward to covering the release of the 2012 Nissan EV as soon as it happens. Stay tuned to for more.

Nissan EV-02 prototype

Nissan EV-02 prototype

[Autocar via WorldCarFans;  Nikkei via GreenCarCongress]