Nissan unveils electric car; U.S. sales expected in 2010

YOKOSUKA, Japan — Nissan Motor Co. showed off its super-quiet, zero-emission electric car, a key green offering for Japan's No. 3 automaker.

Nissan showed the prototype in a Tiida compact that is already on sale. It is withholding the unveiling of the electric car's exterior design until it opens its new Yokohama headquarters Aug. 2.

"Nissan will be a leader in zero-emission vehicles," Chief Operating Officer Toshiyuki Shiga said at a test-drive event.

Sales of Nissan's electric vehicle are scheduled to begin in Japan and the U.S. next year.

Nissan has received a $1.6 billion loan from the U.S. Department of Energy to modify its Smyrna, Tenn., plant to produce electric vehicles and batteries to power them, with production starting in 2012.

The car shown uses a lithium-ion battery pack that is placed under the vehicle floor. The braking system recharges the battery while the car is driving, extending the driving range to 99 miles under a full charge.

Proponents of hybrids say the limited driving range of electric vehicles makes them suited for daily commutes or shopping at best. Hybrids have gas engines as well as a motor, and they charge themselves as they scoot along so they don't have to be plugged in for charging.

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