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Nissan electric car sales booming in Washington state

The automaker Nissan says sales of its fully-electric Leaf compact surpassed all other Nissan models at dealers in the Seattle and Portland areas this spring. The announcement Wednesday runs counter to the prevailing wisdom that adoption of plug-in cars has been sluggish.

At Nissan USA headquarters, director of electric vehicle marketing and sales Erik Gottfried says he's scrambling to ship enough Leafs to meet demand in the Pacific Northwest. The car maker juiced its plug-in sales by slashing the sticker price and offering low-cost leases. Gottfried says that was made possible by opening a domestic production line in Tennessee.

"By moving production to the United States, we have a little more control of our production costs, and we're not subject to shipping costs from Japan on boats. And we also don't have foreign exchange rate fluctuations,” Gottfried said.

A Nissan dealership in Bellevue claims it’s the top seller of electric Leafs in the nation, and the state Department of Licensing has registered 538 Leafs so far this year. By this time last year, the DOL had registered 137 Leafs—more than double the 62 Leaf registrations the first four months of 2011 brought. 

The electric vehicle coordinator at Oregon's Department of Transportation says increased availability is spurring EV sales across many brands. ODOT's Ashley Horvat says having a "very robust" charging network has also helped. Oregon claims to have the most EV charging stations per capita of any state. 

The uptick in electric vehicle adoption vanishes as you move inland.

Idaho's Motor Vehicle Division says it has registered fewer than 100 purely electric cars total. 

Correspondent Tom Banse is an Olympia-based reporter with more than three decades of experience covering Washington and Oregon state government, public policy, business and breaking news stories. Most of his career was spent with public radio's Northwest News Network, but now in semi-retirement his work is appearing on other outlets.