Nissan to build Leaf electric car in Sunderland
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Nissan is to build its new electric car at its Sunderland plant, the Japanese company has announced.

Production of the Leaf, which runs entirely on lithium-ion batteries, will begin in 2013 and forms part of a £420m investment in electric cars.

The production of about 50,000 a year at the factory is expected to safeguard hundreds of jobs.

The investment is backed by a £20.7m government grant and up to £220m from the European Investment Bank.

'Vote of confidence'

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said the latest development was a "fantastic vote of confidence in the Sunderland plant and its excellent workforce".

Sunderland had already been named as the site to produce Nissan's electric car batteries, creating 350 new jobs. About 60,000 will be made there when production begins next month.

Lord Mandelson said: "By working together we can achieve our aim of making the UK a world-leader in ultra-low carbon vehicles."

Nissan said the Leaf hatchback would be the world's first affordable mass-produced zero emission car.

Senior vice president Andy Palmer said it would go on sale later this year and the UK was the third country to produce it after Japan and the United States.

Nissan's Sunderland plant is the UK's largest car factory, employing 4,000 people and producing about a third of the cars made in the UK.

It was founded in 1984 and built its five millionth vehicle in June 2008.

The car battery programme has already seen Nissan invest £179m there.

Last year, Nissan's chief executive Carlos Ghosn underlined his company's commitment to its electric cars programme.

"The electric car will account for 10% of the global market in 10 years," he told BBC News.

The firm has not yet revealed how much the car will cost.

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