YOKOHAMA, Japan—Nissan Motor Co. recently produced its 500,000th LEAF, the world’s first mass-market 100 percent electric car. The milestone was achieved at Nissan’s plant in Sunderland, England, almost a decade after the model first went on sale. The vehicle is also assembled at Nissan plants in Smyrna, TN, and Kanagawa, Japan.

The first LEAF rolled off the assembly line in 2010 and the 400,000th vehicle was produced in March 2019.

Nissan engineers have also developed a new way to mass-produce carbon-fiber composite auto parts that may be used in future electric vehicles. The innovation can cut the lead time to develop lightweight components by as much as half, and cycle time for molding by about 80 percent, compared with conventional methods.

The Nissan approach improves an existing production method known as compression resin transfer molding. It involves forming carbon fiber into the right shape and setting it in a die with a slight gap between the upper die and the carbon fibers. Resin is then injected into the fiber and left to harden.

Nissan engineers developed techniques to accurately simulate the permeability of the resin in carbon fiber, while visualizing resin flow behavior in a die using an in-die temperature sensor and a transparent die. The result of the successful simulation was a high-quality component with shorter development time.