The model is one of seven cars that can take home the 2010 prize and has made history as the first European Car of the Year Award contestant to run solely on batteries and an electric motor.
Nissan described the Leaf being chosen as "a watershed moment in motoring history and consumer attitudes".
The firm said: "The award could be the final signal the motor industry needs that the combustion engine is no longer the default choice for motorists, ending a 125 year reign of dominance."
The car is slated for a spring 2011 launch.
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