Nissan Motor has started production of the pure electric, zero-emission Nissan Leaf at its Oppama facility.

The EV is slated to go on sale in December in Japan and the US and from early 2011, in select markets in Europe. In November, the company will begin exports to the US followed by shipments to Europe in December.

"This is a significant milestone, not only for Nissan and the Renault-Nissan Alliance, but also for the entire automotive industry," said Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn.

"Consumers are clear. They want sustainable and affordable mobility...and the Alliance is leading the way with cars that deliver exactly that, with the reliability, excitement and performance that consumers demand.

"The high-quality, innovative Nissan Leaf will radically transform what consumers expect from automobile manufacturers worldwide."

Nissan's Leaf will be produced at the Oppama Plant along with gasoline models such as the Nissan Juke and Nissan Cube.

Part of the assembly line has been modified to mount battery modules at the stage of production where fuel tanks are traditionally installed and motors and inverters are mounted at the point where engines are put in gasoline-powered vehicles.

The Leaf's lithium-ion battery modules are manufactured at the Automotive Energy Supply Corporation (AESC) operation in Zama, Japan, which is a joint-venture of Nissan Motor Co and NEC Corporation.

The battery module, which contains four battery cells, is assembled at Zama and then shipped to the Nissan Oppama facility, where 48 of them are assembled into the electric car's battery pack.

"Oppama will serve as the 'Mother Plant' for the production of Nissan Leaf," said EVP manufacturing Hidetoshi Imazu.

"We will use all of the know-how and learning from Oppama to ensure the highest quality at all sites that manufacture Nissan EVs."

Sites for future production of Nissan EVs include Smyrna, Tennessee in the US and Sunderland, England.

The Oppama plant has an annual production capacity of 50,000 units. Nissan Leaf will start production at Smyrna in late 2012 and at Sunderland in early 2013.

At full ramp up, Smyrna will have an annual production capacity of 150,000 units, and Sunderland, of 50,000 units.