BARCELONA – Nissan is spending a total of €210 million ($262.5 million) in three of its Spanish plants, one of which will build the Japanese auto maker’s second electric vehicle after the Leaf.

The investment is divided into €100 million ($125 million) for the Barcelona car- and light-truck-manufacturing facility; €100 million for the light- and medium-duty truck factory near Madrid; and €10 million ($12.5 million) for the casting and machining plant in Cantabria.

The Barcelona investment is earmarked for production of a new EV called the e-NV200, which will consist of the NV200 light-commercial van body and the electric powertrain of the Leaf passenger car. Annual production is forecast at 20,000 units.

The e-NV200 will generate about 700 new jobs in Barcelona. Frank Torres, Nissan Spain vice president-industrial operations, says he can’t yet break down the proportion of jobs between the auto maker and suppliers.

The e-NV200 will cost slightly less than the Leaf, which sells for €30,000 ($37,400) after subtracting the Spanish government’s €6,000 ($7,500) subsidy.

The e-NV200 will be sold with batteries, unlike Nissan’s alliance-partner Renault, which rents or leases the batteries for the EVs it sells.

But not all the news about the Barcelona plant is good.

General Motors’ Luton, U.K., plant next year will assume some production of the next-generation X83 model, a LCV range that is marketed by Opel/Vauxhall as the Vivaro, by Renault as the Trafic and by Nissan as the Primastar. Barcelona, which produced about 140,000 X83 units in 2011, will lose half of that figure.

Andy Palmer, Nissan executive vice president-product planning, notes the Barcelona plant in 2014 will begin producing the replacement for the current Navara-Frontier pickup.

The Barcelona facility has had 3,500 employees working on two shifts since first-half 2011, but production levels for the second half of 2012 are not defined. By reducing costs and increasing flexibility, the plant will receive new models from now to at least 2018, Palmer says.

Takao Katagiri, Nissan executive vice president-global sales, says the e-NV200 will make a significant contribution to the auto maker’s goal of becoming the world’s largest LCV maker by 2016.

“We want to sell 5.3 million vehicles in 2012, about a half-million over the 2011 figure,” he says, adding the auto maker regrets not having more production capacity. “We could increase our sales even more.”

Palmer agrees that Nissan is not building new plants as quickly as it would like, saying the auto maker has been forced to meet demand for its Navara pickup by transferring some production in Thailand to a Mitsubishi plant in that country.

He also says Nissan is developing two more EVs. One is an Infiniti-branded model previewed as the LE concept at last month’s New York auto show; the other is a small commuter car code-named Symbol.

Defending the Nissan-Renault Alliance’s commitment to EVs in light of recent cutbacks in government support for alternatively fueled vehicles, Palmer says zero-emissions vehicles are vital in reducing levels of greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide and oxides of nitrogen.

“Moreover, our commitment with zero-emissions vehicles has improved in an intangible but very perceptible way the technological and environmental image of Nissan, and that has an infinite value,” he adds.

The executive denies consumers are being misled about the benefits of EVs, given that they simply transfer emissions to a different source – electricity-generating plants.

“It is true that when considering the emissions from well to wheel, EVs are not so zero-emissions, but we have done our part of the work; we have cleaned our part of the chain. Now it is the governments’ responsibility to clean the previous steps.”