MINNEAPOLIS – Nissan North America Inc. will have a pure electric vehicle for sale early in the next decade, a top official says.

The EV will be developed under the auspices of the “Nissan Green Program 2010,” which the auto maker describes as its “commitment to all aspects of environmental management.”

Key to the EV program will be the development of lithium-ion batteries through a recently formed joint venture with NEC Corp., and its subsidiary, NEC TOKIN Corp.

Nissan and NEC invested a combined $4.1 million in the JV, which was formed in April. The new company, called Automotive Energy Supply Corp., will focus on research and marketing of Li-ion technology, which is critical to the future of advanced powertrains, such as plug-in hybrid-electric and hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles, as well as pure EVs.

Once the technology is perfected, it will be shared with other auto makers, says Doug Betts, senior vice president-total customer satisfaction.

“Between the two companies (Nissan and NEC), we think we have some unique technology,” he tells Ward's at a media event here. “We're going to make batteries for ourselves, but also are going to offer them to other companies, because we think they're going to be very competitive.”

The development of the batteries will be divided between the two companies, Nissan says, with NEC contributing its expertise in cell technology and battery manufacturing and Nissan focusing on cell stacks for real-world applications.

The EV will be introduced in Japan early in the next decade, with field testing being conducted through fiscal year 2010, Nissan says.

Initial studies already have been conducted in California with the Altra EV and Hypermini EV.

Meanwhile, Nissan is turning its attention to other objectives outlined in the Nissan Green Program, including the development of its own proprietary HEV technology. The auto maker currently licenses hybrid technology from Toyota Motor Corp. for use in its Altima Hybrid sedan.

“It's a different idea that we have (for HEVs),” Betts says. “They will be more efficient than what's on the market.”

Nissan plans to have a vehicle with its own hybrid technology in the U.S. by '10, and is accelerating development of a plug-in HEV.

Diesels are also on the auto maker's radar, with new clean diesels that can meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Tier 2 Bin 5 emission standards targeted to be on the road in the '10 model year.

An expanded lineup of E85-capable vehicles, which can run on a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, also is in the works, as is a hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicle, Nissan says.

The auto maker says it will announce plans for its first production fuel-cell vehicle within the next year. It plans to introduce the vehicle in the early part of the next decade.