Japanese automaker Nissan Motor Co. confirmed that it will build electric vehicles in the United States on a mass scale, beginning in 2011 or 2012 just ahead of an announcement from the U.S. Department of Energy granted a $1.6 billion loan to the automaker to produce electric cars and battery packs at its manufacturing complex in Smyrna, Tennessee.

Nissan - the third largest Japanese automaker - said it expects to build more than 100,000 electric vehicles a year at the plant in Smyrna, Tennessee , according to Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn who spoke to reporters today at the company's annual shareholder meeting in Yokohama, Japan, Bloomberg reports. The zero-emission cars will be first sold to corporate fleet operators, Ghosn noted.

We have a different strategy from other manufacturers when it comes to electric cars, Ghosn said according to Reuters. You have to go mass-market to get the cost benefit, he said.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Energy announced it is giving a loan to Nissan, Ford and Tesla Motors to develop green and fuel-efficient vehicles, as government incentives boost demand for fuel-efficient vehicles.

Nissan plans to sell its first zero-emission cars in the U.S. and Japan in 2010 and mass market them globally in 2012.

Ghosn told shareholders today that Nissan had signed 27 initial agreements with governments and agencies to help deploy electric cars, Reuters reports.

In April, Ghosn told CNBC that Nissan was considering introducing zero-emission vehicles that make economic sense as he commented on cars such as General Motors' Volt with a reported tag price of $40,000.