The Nissan Leaf became the first 100% electric vehicle to be named the Japan Car of the Year for 2011-2012 on Friday at the Tokyo Motor Show. Nissan’s Leaf, which hit the roads in the US in December of 2010, was sold mostly in the US and Japan – and the award recognized it as the first mass-marketable all-electric vehicle to make it past the production phase and into thousands of homes. Check out the video interview with Nissan Chief Operating Officer Toshiyuki Shiga about the honor after the jump.

We have sold 20,000 Nissan LEAFs and also delivered on our promise of affordable, zero-emission mobility on a global scale. This award is as much a win for Nissan as it is for our customers,” said Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn in a statement. “All these accolades show that zero-emission vehicles can clearly be competitive alternatives to conventional ones.” Nissan, which is partially owned by Renault has invested over $5.3 billion into the development of electric cars.

The Leaf is a zero-emissions car while in drive mode — the car’s only operating emissions result from electricity generation while charging the car — and is run by an electric engine that is charged by lithium-ion batteries. In EPA testing the car was shown to have a 100 mile range with a fully charged new battery in optimal conditions. The vehicle uses other innovative technologies like a four wheel regenerative breaking and can reach speeds up to 90 mph. So far, worldwide, 20,000 Nissan Leafs — and counting — have been sold.

Via PhysOrg