NISSAN is refreshing a flagship electric vehicle – and confirmed its North-East plant will oversee production.

The car maker says its new Leaf hatchback will allow motorists to travel further on a single charge.

The unveiling comes as the company’s 7,000-strong workforce is today (Thursday, September 7) awarded the Freedom of the City of Sunderland, in recognition of its role in supporting Nissan’s significant impact on the region’s economy and the national car industry.

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The firm’s Sunderland factory already makes the model for the European market, and officials have today (Thursday, September 7) confirmed the updated vehicle will be made on Wearside.

The update comes after the firm revealed its new Leaf on Wednesday, but declined to say where the new vehicle would be manufactured.

Production in Sunderland is expected to start before the end of 2017.

The Wearside factory will join sites in the US and Japan in making the Leaf.

"We're proud to continue manufacturing the Leaf at three plants globally," said Fumiaki Matsumoto, executive vice president of manufacturing, supply chain management.

"The Leaf is the icon of Nissan intelligent mobility with its many advanced technologies.

"Employees at Sunderland are excited to continue producing the most popular electric vehicle in the world."

Bosses say its updated Leaf, which will go on sale in Europe from January 2018, can travel for longer, has a onepedal driving system that allows motorists to drive and brake seamlessly, and includes auto-parking technology.

The Leaf, which was the nine millionth vehicle to be made on Nissan’s Wearside lines since the factory’s 1986 opening, was launched in 2011 before being revised in 2013, when production started in the region.

The workers’ ceremony, due to take place this afternoon in Sunderland Civic Centre, was first motioned by city council leader Paul Watson and later approved at a full council meeting.

Cllr Watson said: “Nissan’s phenomenal success in Sunderland would not have been possible without the highlyskilled and hard-working people it employs.

“They have been instrumental in maintaining our proud track record of manufacturing and engineering quality products for the world.”

Last month, Nissan revealed it had reached an agreement to offload electric battery operations and production facilities to private investment fund GSR Capital.

The sale covers manufacturing operations at Sunderland, where around 300 workers oversee operations on rechargeable batteries used to power the Leaf.

The Wearside plant also makes the Qashqai, Juke and Infiniti Q30 and QX30 vehicles.

However, it is due to manufacture the next generation Qashqai and an upgraded X-Trail model.