I would – deservedly – have got a thick ear had I asked Steven Groves – Nissan Europe’s vehicle development manager for the European Leaf EV – which plant in Japan packed the assembly kits for the new ‘localised’ model. And that would be before those in Sunderland now building – not just assembling – the new cars for a May showroom launch got hold of me.

Groves was the public face at the European media launch of the updated Leaf of a vast team that has spent four years and some GBP420m readying Nissan’s well established Sunderland factory in northeast England, and building an adjacent plant alongside for the battery packs.

Local content? A high 70% thanks to British manufacture and assembly of the powertrain, battery pack, body in white and many other components. The rewards already include a deal to make the battery packs for Nissan’s upcoming Spanish-built ENV200 – an electric spinoff of the new van line for Europe.

“The intention was always to localise Leaf production in Europe and the US,” Groves said. Feedback from owners of the initial global model line made in Japan from all the relevant individual markets enabled the updated cars built in the two largest markets to be tweaked to local preferences – lots of detail changes and, most noticeably, the new black interior option. “The Nordic markets really wanted that,” Groves said.

Europe’s changes are broadly in line with those also adopted for Smyrna, Tennessee build in the US though the Americans have different suspension settings and use different names for their new trim levels which differ in the detail from Europe’s.

Groves is coy on detailing individual suppliers for Europe but points to the presence of companies such as JCI adjacent to the plant and talks of using “a broad basket of European suppliers”.

At Sunderland, the Leaf is built on the Qashqai line and Groves said moving the charger module from the boot into the engine bay helped simplify the production process.

Essentially, ‘stuffing’ an electric powertrain up into a trimmed body is not much different from installing a petrol or diesel unit and the battery pack goes in from underneath in much the same way as a fuel tank.

“Line strategy is much the same,” said Groves, noting that the charger relocation avoided the need to string a wire harness the length of the underbody.

He said the Leaf build and battery pack had “created 2,000 direct factory jobs” and was also “significant” for suppliers and the region which decades ago was home to coal mining and ship building.

Grove’s job has covered all development of the Leaf for Europe, monitoring the performance of the early Japanese-made cars in the field, assessing feedback and making the changes so the car “performs right for Europe”.

He began right back in 2008 and worked closely with 25 ‘early adopters’ of the model. These days, 55% of Leaf drivers use their cars for their daily commute and 60% travel over 60km a day.

So called range anxiety tends to diminish somewhat as owners get to know their cars and understand the effect of driving patterns on range. They’ve been listened to: Groves has overseen the development of a new satnav ‘eco’ route option that takes topography into account and a new way the car monitors remaining range by using weight averaging to get more realistic distance parameters.

“Customers are now overcoming range anxiety and want to go further so they are demanding quick chargers,” he said. “The biggest beef has been infrastructure.”

Hence Nissan’s offer of 600 fast chargers distributed around Europe with 200 of those in the UK alone.

Groves said Nissan has tended to work with countries “more receptive to EVs” and noted that many UK companies are keen to set up. The challenge is standardisation, always an issue with new technology, but the automaker is encouraging the installation of fast chargers with a range of plugs to suit all makes out there.

“It takes time for industry standards to be established,” Grove said.

One final question is the only one he cannot answer immediately. A phone call later, I learn what the Nissan EV equivalent to the end-of-production-line ‘gallon in the tank’ is. The battery packs come to the line 70% charged so the Sunderland Leaf is good to go as soon as it’s connected up.