Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. debuts its much-anticipated, production-ready plug-in electric car, in Japan, calling it the world's first affordable zero-emissions car.

The new EV, called the Leaf, will be manufactured at Oppama, Japan, with additional capacity planned for Nissan North America Inc.’s assembly plant in Smyrna, TN.

Lithium-ion batteries are being produced in Zama, Japan, with additional capacity planned for the U.S., U.K. and Portugal. Other sites for investment are under study.

Designed specifically for a Li-ion-battery-powered chassis, the Leaf is a midsize 4-door hatchback seating five adults, with a range of more than 100 miles (160 km).

Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn says the auto maker will begin selling the Leaf in late-2010 in Japan, the U.S. and Europe.

Production capacity in the three regions, combined, reportedly is expected to hit 200,000 units annually by 2012. Although no announcement has been made for Europe, media reports say Nissan’s U.K. Sunderland plant is the likely pick.

“We have been working tirelessly to make this day a reality, the unveiling of a real-world car that has zero – not simply reduced – emissions,” Ghosn says in statement.

Nissan says the car’s name was chosen because leaves purify the air in nature, and the Leaf EV purifies mobility by taking emissions out of the driving experience.

Pricing details will be announced closer to start of sales. However, the auto maker expects the Leaf to be competitively priced in the range of a well-equipped gas-powered C-segment vehicle.

Nissan says the Leaf is expected to qualify for an array of significant tax breaks and incentives in markets around the world.

The car’s laminated compact Li-ion batteries generate power output of more than 90kW (120 hp), while its electric motor delivers 207 lbs.-ft. (280 Nm) of torque.

A combination of the Leaf’s regenerative braking system and innovative Li-ion battery packs enables the EV to deliver a its full driving range on one full charge, Nissan says, noting consumer research indicates this range satisfies the daily driving requirements of more than 70% of the world's drivers.

The Leaf can be charged up to 80% of its full capacity in just under 30 minutes with a quick charger. Charging at home through a 200V outlet is estimated to take about eight hours.

The auto maker says the car has a completely new chassis and body layout.

Product Chief Designer Masato Inoue says the light-emitting diode (LED) headlights consume just 10% of the electricity of conventional lamps. A dash-mounted monitor displays the remaining power, or "reachable area," in addition to showing a selection of nearby charging stations.

Nissan says the Leaf is the first in a forthcoming line of EVs and is a major milestone in the realization of the Renault (SA)-Nissan Alliance's vision for zero-emissions mobility.

The Leaf’s debut coincides with the opening ceremony for Nissan’s new global headquarters in the port city of Yokohama. The 861,112 sq.-ft. (80,000 sq.-m) building overlooking the harbor will house 2,800 employees.

Ghosn says the symbolism of the new headquarters is inescapable. “As we return to where Nissan was founded in 1933, we celebrate a new era for our company and a new era for mobility.”

The new headquarters will reduce CO2 emissions by more than 27%, compared with Nissan's former headquarters in the upscale Ginza shopping district of Tokyo, as well as conserve energy by effectively harnessing natural resources.