First Major Shipment of Nissan LEAFs Arrives in U.S.

By · March 27, 2011

Luna Spirit

The Luna Spirit, loaded with 600 Nissan LEAFs, left Japan less than a day before the earthquake and tsunami devastated the island nation.

On March 18, Nissan stated that more than 1,500 Nissan LEAF vehicles were either in transit from Japan or at port in the U.S. This number includes the shipment of more than 600 Nissan LEAFs which left port in Japan on March 10, the day before the earthquake.

The arrival of the “Luna Spirit”, one of Nissan’s fleet of vehicle carrying ships—now docked and ready to be unloaded in Long Beach, Calif.—is a major breakthrough for electric cars in the United States. These 1,500 cars are the first major delivery of LEAFs to the U.S. and will put an order of magnitude more LEAFs on American roadways.

The Luna is just one of five ships that brought LEAFs from Japan to the US in March of 2011. The other ships are the Andromeda Spirit, the Bergamot Ace, the Hoegh Inchon, and the United Spirit. Together these ships are bringing more than 1,500 Nissan Leafs to America.

The Luna Spirit left Japan less than a day before the earthquake and tsunami devastated the island nation. This was enough time for the Luna to reach deep water before the tsunami caught up with her. There in the open ocean the tsunami would be traveling at 500 MPH. This high-speed massive energy wave harmlessly passed under the ship. The only visible sign at the surface was a three-inch wave.

After the vehicles are unloaded, these cars will be delivered to their waiting pre-order customers. According to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association (JADA), as of February 2011, only 173 LEAFs had been delivered to the U.S.

This delivery will still leave plenty of folks with pre-orders still unsatisfied. However, with this delivery, Nissan will cross multiple milestones. The Toyota RAV4 EV was one of the most beloved EVs of the EV1-era of vehicles; only 328 RAV4 EVs were sold to the public. Tesla has produced a total of 1,200 of its wicked fast Roadsters. But now, production of the LEAF has surpassed both of these iconic electric vehicles.

Along with the prior 3,657 LEAF sales (mostly in Japan), this puts the LEAF over the 5,000 production mark—and makes the LEAF one of the highest volume production electric vehicles in history. And Nissan is just getting started.

Nissan LEAF

With the latest shipment, the Nissan LEAF will begin to make electric cara a more common sight on American roads.

Japan will be dealing with the impacts of the disaster for some time. In a March 20 press release, Nissan reported that they have resumed production of the LEAF in Oppama, Japan. However, rolling blackouts and supply chain issues will hamper production for some time.

If you are one of the lucky people scheduled to receive your LEAF this spring, then you only have weeks to wait. For the rest of the pre-order customers, the Japanese people are strong and resilient—the nation will rebuild and recover.

Final note: I’d like to express condolences to the victims of the earthquake and extend my sympathy to those still suffering from the aftermath. If you would like donate the relief effort you can do so at the Red Cross at


· Lad (not verified) · 7 years ago

How must time does it take for a car ship to travel from Japan to Long Beach?

· · 7 years ago

Hello Lad,

The ships do not always go directly to Long Beach. Depending on what cargo are being dropped off, they may stop in Canada and/or other US ports first. The ships may have to queue up for port access too which can add time. The Luna Spirit discussed in this article left Japan on March 10th and then left the Port of LA in Long Beach on March 25th.

You can see a lot of ship tracking information from this site:

Depending on the ship, it looks like it generally takes from 2 weeks to 35 days to cross the Pacific.

Thanks for commenting!

· John (not verified) · 7 years ago

Japan to Long Beach by Roll On - Roll Off is normally in the range 10-17 days.

Shipping calculators from Japan with costs and shipping times are here:

· · 7 years ago

Thanks John.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 7 years ago

You should write a piece on the chaos in Leaf deliveries, the "Forgotten Sept/Oct Leaf Orders" that were passed over for later Leaf orders in Jan 2011. This is not just a few isolated cases, but many cars, and this error has been made much more serious by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Here are key references:

· JJJJJJ (not verified) · 7 years ago

Thats an ugly boat

· · 7 years ago

Car carriers are not known for having "nice lines". The Japanese will blast through the rubble and debris in no time. If anyone can get organized and show some work ethic it is the Japanese, and that's not just some outdated "Japan Inc." stereotype, they still have it. The lack of injured in the NE is telling, if you were not on high ground you died, tragic. I have friends and family in Japan but most are on Kyushu and a few in the Tokyo area so we are pretty thankful. I haven't been seeing too many shallow technophiles worrying about their electronic toys too much in all of this and that is good. If I had a Leaf on order I would be bummed out of coarse but it would be secondary in my mind. I think most people get that and feel the same way.

· · 7 years ago

Footnote: I forgot that "electronic toy" or "high end electronic toy" are taking point/buzz words used by ev haters, when I say "electronic toys" I wasn't targeting ev's in a derogatory way, I am referring to all of the supply line electronics that are produced in Japan for all kinds of different gadgets. I am waiting for a hater to pop in here anytime and comment on the bunkering barge loading fuel and lubes onto the car carrier for the return trip. Come on, your late!

· · 7 years ago

Thanks spicoli. I tried to write a story about the delivery while still being sensitive to disaster in Japan. I agree that concern for "things" of any sort is not important compared to the devastation of people's lives.

@JJJJJJ, sometimes functional is more important than pretty :)

· Ren (not verified) · 7 years ago

Patrick, has anybody done any preliminary research on how much electricity solar panels on the roof of, say, a 1600 sf ranch style house would create in a week vs how much electricity it takes to run the Nissan Leaf in a day? Could the average person power a good percentage of their driving with free electricity and avoid having to create electricity by mining for and burning coal? If not, that would make an eye-opening article if researched and written by the right person.

· · 7 years ago

@Ren, You have the right idea! Yes, solar panels on a roof definitely can supply more than enough power to offset the power used for a Leaf (or any other EV). There are a number of EV drivers here who also have solar panels (I'm not one of them because I don't have an EV yet.)

How much power PV panels make depends somewhat on where one lives: someone in Seattle would make less power per day, on average, than someone in Las Vegas. It also depends on the angle of the panels, shading from trees, and obvious stuff like that.

The small, 700 watt, array shown in my avatar is about 60 ft² and generated 1153 kWh of electricity over the last year. It takes about 0.25 kWh to drive one mile in a Leaf, depending on driving conditions. So the power I generated would take a Leaf about 4600 miles, give or take about 20%. (I plan to double my array in the near future.)

Even a fairly small patch of south-facing roof in a moderately sunny climate can generate more than enough electricity to power a Leaf. This is why some here get annoyed when EV opponents say that EVs are powered by coal, and other fossil fuels, or that they will raise electricity prices. Not for those with PV panels. (And solar panel prices have come WAY down in the last year due to massive production in China.)

My goal is to get an EV and put a "Powered by the Sun" bumper sticker on it!

· · 7 years ago

Great question Ren. Thanks for the info dgp.

I did exactly that calculation before buying my solar panels. My annual EV driving uses about 3.6MWh and my PV systems makes about 3.8MWh annually. So my solar panels more than cover my driving. When I upgrade my EV later this year (from a truck to a car), I'll use even less energy for driving (while driving more), so my power bill will go down.

Do do your own calculations you would have to know several things.
1) Your driving efficiency (Wh/mile)
2) Annual EV miles
3) Solar factors (regional sun, roof angle/direction, shade...)

If I make some assumptions, a general guide is that each 1kW of PV panels on your roof will get you about 4800 miles of annual EV driving. Of course, it matters where you and and how you drive, but that gives you a rough starting point.

· rhapsycats (not verified) · 7 years ago

My Leaf is on one of those boats. Also, I am currently getting a solar system installed on my roof that will more than power my Leaf. I am pumped!

· · 7 years ago

@rhapsycats, that is great!

· · 7 years ago

I decided to stick with my LEAF order and am expecting delivery in two weeks. Solar panels will have to wait until next year at the earliest, though. If nothing else, we need to spread out those federal tax credits!

· Doug K (not verified) · 7 years ago

I was very lucky to have just picked up my new LEAF last night - Yeah. The car is fantastic!

I showed the LEAF to several people and already 2 fairly skeptical individuals are now going buying one themselves - that in only one day of ownership. Imagine how all of us can win over people to EVs by just letting them see it, feel it and talking about the benefits.

· · 7 years ago

I took a fellow oil industry co-worker/friend to a Leaf test drive and he was more than sold. And he was pro-ice to say the least. Type 151badfish in youtube to see the results...

· · 7 years ago

@abasile, I hope you enjoy the car. You and I should get our Leafs at about the same time.
@DougK, agreed, seeing/riding/driving the cars is the best way to get people thinking about PEVs.
@spicoli, great video. I went to the Hillsboro, Oregon test drive too.

· · 7 years ago

I should have mine on the same wave. Things are going to get interesting.

· · 7 years ago

Yes, for a number of us, "LEAF Day" is almost here! Now the key will be for Nissan to really ramp up production, then start building the LEAF in Smyrna, Tennessee. Once we get other people interested, they'll need cars to buy! My prayers for those in Japan who continue to be affected by the earthquake and its aftermath.

· · 7 years ago

@Patrick, glad you enjoyed it! Ya I was lucky enough to be taking some classes in the area at the time, I also drove up to South Seattle about a week later and took my brother to the test drive there. He was a little bit tougher nut to crack though and only begrudgingly allowed that is was a peppy and comfortable car but until there is 300+ of range he's not interested. But he isn't a commuter either, and neither am I which leaves me here on the Big Island with a couple dealerships to charge at and home. Doesn't quite work for certain trips I make from time to time, even on an island. I wish they would have offered some different battery packs for those who would pay.

· K.DAVID (not verified) · 7 years ago

Great article and comments! I would love to own a EV and drive past gas stations and wave; it's a dream of mine. I especially like the idea of powering them via solar panels.
Two questions:
1. How are the batteries expected to hold up to extreme temperture changes? I live in the St. Louis metro area and we get everything from -10 to 110. I am concerned that this will dramaticly affect the life of the battery.
2. Would someone like to comment or direct me to alternitive info on the amount of raw materials that are required to make these batteries and the disposal of them.


· · 7 years ago

There is a lot of evidence on how batteries hold up under temperature extremes. You certainly won't get as much range at cold temperatures as warm ones. Here's a post by an experienced EV driver after 2 winters with an EV as his primary (heavily used) vehicle:
The raw materials used in an EV vary a bit but if you compare the 500 - 1000 lbs of battery that an EV consumes every 10 years with the 80 lbs of oil that an ICE consumes every 300 miles, I think you'll find this a non-issue (consumable -vs- durable). Also, most of an EV battery is recyclable. The best description of EV battery recycling is provided by Tesla, the company with the most EV miles driven at:
other related links include:
Remember that lead-acid starter batteries are one of the most recycled products in the market today. We can probably expect nearly 100% recycling of EV batteries . There are also secondary markets for EV batteries after their range is such that EV drivers won't want them. Even with half the capacity, they will still be superior to lead-acid for stationary back-up power and load-leveling applications.

· · 7 years ago

@K.DAVID, One unknown with regard to temperatures is how Li ion batteries will handle high temperatures. While cold temperatures will reduce capacity somewhat, they won't harm the battery pack. However, it has been reported that high temperatures may damage battery packs, so some sort of cooling system may be necessary in hot climates to preserve battery life. This will likely vary with the specific battery chemistry used and the 8 year/100,000 mile warranty, that seems to be the standard, should protect the EV buyer somewhat.

Your hot Summer weather in St Louis probably isn't extensive enough for it to be an issue, especially if you will garage the EV when it isn't in use. But it is something to consider. We should know more after EVs have been used for several years in very hot places, such as Phoenix.

The coming Ford Focus Electric is supposed to have an active battery pack thermal management system. It may be that future Leaf models will offer something of this sort as well. For now, the first Leaf model may be more suited to mild climate zones.

One option is to lease the EV rather than buy it, although once the lease is up one has spent a lot of money and no longer has a car. But, by then there will be other EV models and more information available.

· · 7 years ago

Did you ever think Leaf forum people are nuts for following the ships as they bring in LEAFs ? That was nothing.

Someone made a special "run" of a chopper over the Long Beach Nissan port where 1,500 cars are being readied. Here are the photos.

· · 7 years ago

@EVNow, that is a great picture!

· · 7 years ago

Wow! we've come a long way. The last time I remember someone subversively taking a picture of EVs from a helicopter was back in 2004 when Chris Paine flew over the GM proving grounds and caught GM in their lie that they weren't crushing EV1s (

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

Hi. Thanks for the article. We just bought a Leaf (#750). We had radioactivity concerns but it seems that ours may have been on the last shipment out (or perhaps even the previous one) before the earthquake. Is there any way to officially check when my car left Japan? It's just for peace of mind for the safety of my family. Thanks.

· · 6 years ago

@Anonymous (not verified) : "Is there any way to officially check when my car left Japan? It's just for peace of mind for the safety of my family."

If you already got your Leaf, it definitely left Japan before the earthquake.

A new Leaf that comes now will have less radioactivity than one would get by eating a banana. Don't be mislead by alarmists.

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