The Wheel Deal

Fixing you up with life in the fast lane.
Posted: October 21st, 2013 | By Thomas Falkiner

Nissan Leaf

The 2013 Johannesburg International Motor Show is currently underway at the Johannesburg Expo Centre. And one of the main attractions is the innovative Nissan Leaf. The first all-electric vehicle for sale on the South African market, it promises to be the next must-have accessory for eco-warriors.

Being driven by an 80kW electric motor mated to a 24KWh lithium ion battery pack means that the Leaf produces zero CO2 tailpipe emissions. Instead it draws and stores power from the ESKOM grid. Of course in a country where electricity is produced through the burning of fossil fuels, is this really doing anything to kerb the production of greenhouse gasses?

Ross Garvie, chief marketing manager at Nissan South Africa, acknowledges this issue but is confident that cleaner forms of local electricity production will come to the fore within the next 10 years. He also points out that although the Leaf may at the moment run off so-called dirty energy, it does remove itself from the carbon-heavy petroleum supply chain that includes shipping, refining and distribution.

“I’d also like to point out that a similar sized vehicle fitted with a 1.8-litre petrol engine will, over the span of five years, emit approximately 25 tons of CO2 while our Leaf will emit nothing,” says Garvie. “So the benefit is still very much in favour of electric cars as far as carbon emissions go.”

Currently only available in Gauteng and Pretoria during the initial rollout phase, the Nissan Leaf will retail for R446 000. On top of this you will be required to purchase the R30 000 home charger unit that ensures safe and efficient charging. This is supplied by Nissan and installed by their electricians at no extra cost.

Once up and running it will deliver a full battery charge in approximately seven hours. Good enough to give you an optimal driving range of up to 195 kilometres. A complementary 30-minute quick-charge service will be made available to Leaf owners at any of the nine Nissan dealerships currently equipped to support the vehicle.

The Leaf may be expensive to buy but it is, on paper, affordable to run. According to Nissan South Africa managing director, Mike Whitfield, a Leaf driven 2500km every month will cost in the region of R310 – 80% less than what it takes to fuel a hybrid equivalent. With fewer moving parts than a regular internal combustion engine, the electric powertrain should also be cheaper and easier to maintain.

Although the Leaf will probably remain something of a niche vehicle in South Africa for the foreseeable future, Nissan hopes that this electric car will attract a new breed of environmentally conscious motorist towards its stable. “The Nissan Leaf represents one of the most significant events that Nissan South Africa has ever undertaken and as such is a huge opportunity for us to place our name at the top of what will become a long list of EV (electric vehicle) manufacturers in the future,” concludes Whitfield.

I had a chance to take a Leaf for a short test drive at the Johannesburg International Motor Show and was impressed at how well it performed. Though eerily quiet it offers both brisk acceleration and nimble handling as most of the car’s weight is positioned low down between the two axles. Equipped with all the mod cons you would expect from a car in this price range, the Leaf can also easily carry four adults in total comfort.




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