THE Leaf has landed.
Nissan’s Sunderland plant won’t start building the world’s first electric family car for another two years, but the first models go on sale in the UK next month and arrived in the region yesterday.
Sixty-seven Leafs were among the cargo aboard the City of St Petersburg, Nissan’s new energy-saving car carrier for transporting vehicles in Europe, when it docked at the firm’s facility at Port of Tyne.
One North East manufacturing and productivity manager Colin Herron said the new arrivals were symbolic of the region’s green industrial revolution.
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“This is a technological world-beating moment,” he said.
“To be in the North East and seeing something as revolutionary as the Ford Model T coming off the ship is almost emotional.
“It is the most significant thing since the Nissan plant was announced.”
The development of a low-carbon industry in the region was critical for the future.
“It is the culmination of a lot of time, a lot of effort,” said Dr Herron.
“We are trying to position the region to take advantage of what is happening – if we pull it off, this region will be known not just nationally in the UK as a major car manufacturing area but internationally. “It just shows the amount of effort that people can put in when there is a prize as big as this. There are lots of people who have worked long hours and travelled innumerable miles to get to this position.
“The electric car is an iconic item. It is part of the overall move away from oil, to a time when the wind turbines start to make electricity, the electricity drives the cars, and we are right there at the forefront.”
Nissan Motor Manufacturing (UK) Ltd Vice President Kevin Fittzpatrick said: “It is a big symbol today.
“It is very significant because these are the first mass-produced electric vehicles globally.
“We are very proud that we are going to be rolling out production here and it has been great, the way the North East has got behind it. People have recognised the effort and the investment.”
Production of the Leaf in Japan began in October and the firm expects to build 27,000 of the new car before the end of the financial year in April.
*Sunderland City Council will unveil the city’s first public charging points next week.
The four St Mary’s charging points are the first of more than 40 that are being installed over the next 12 months across Sunderland, with the aim that in a year’s time, nine-out of-ten people in the city will be within a mile-and-a-half of a charging point.
Council leader Coun Paul Watson said: “The City Council has been working with its partners on helping to deliver the necessary infrastructure and incentives for electric vehicles.
“With the switch-on of charging points across Sunderland, the delivery of these Leafs, the construction of the Nissan battery plant and the company’s plans to also manufacture the Leaf here, our city and region are at the forefront of some very exciting technological developments.”