Nissan on Monday began deliveries of the Leaf EV to customers in the UK.

Tony Whittaker, sales director of Cleaner Air Solutions in Durham, took delivery of the first of five cars the company is buying, at the Benfield Motor Group dealership in Newcastle upon Tyne, not far from the Sunderland plant where Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK will eventually build the Leaf for Europe (from 2013), installing batteries made in a factory currently being built nearby.

“This groundbreaking moment represents the start of Nissan’s vision of bringing sustainable mobility to the mass market in the UK,” the automaker said in a statement.

Kevin Fitzpatrick, vice president of manufacturing at Nissan’s Sunderland plant, said: “The Leaf is pioneering the electric car revolution in the UK. Since we first unveiled the car in August 2009, we’ve been building up to this historic moment for over 18 months. 

“Today’s deliveries mark the beginning of [the] introduction to customers across the country as our network of EV dealers will deliver to their first customers later this week.

Nigel McMinn, managing director, Benfield Motor Group, said, “As a north east based family business we are honoured to be at the forefront of the electric car revolution and this historic occasion. Demand for the Leaf is already very high and there is no doubt this car is going to revolutionise driving in the UK. Benfield are absolutely delighted to have been chosen as one of Nissan’s first electric vehicle specialists.”

Tony Whittaker, of Cleaner Air Solutions said:  “We’re very excited about the arrival of the Leaf.

“Our existing fleet is made up of LPG converted vehicles as well as some hybrid vehicles so the move to all-electric was an obvious choice.

“The range, performance and running costs of the Leaf are exactly what we we’re looking for in a new fleet vehicle.”

In a similar event in Waltham Abbey, Hertfordshire, Smooth FM DJ Mark Goodier and electronics engineer Richard Todd took delivery of their Leafs at local dealer Glyn Hopkin.

A charging network is currently under development in the UK and Nissan’s network of EV dealers – currently 26 sites across the country – will be equipped with a quick charger, which will charge the battery from zero up to 80% capacity in under 30 minutes. There are programmes under way to install around 1,300 charge points in the north east (a pioneering region with strong local political and administrative support for EVs) and 9,000 across the UK by 2013.