Nissan’s carbon-free car – Leaf – will be introduced later this year in Japan, Europe and the US, countries whose governments have committed to making the car a viable automotive option. The US alone provides 7500 in federal tax rebates for every Leaf manufactured, and in the UK the figures range from £5000-£7000.
The proposed price of the Leaf in the UK will be the equivalent of R280 000.
The Leaf would not be introduced in isolation in SA, with Optimal Energy’s South African- designed and manufactured Joule electric vehicle set to enter the market in 2013. Optimal Energy hopes to produce 50000 units by 2015. There is a level of commitment from the government, with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan saying in May he aimed to influence the composition of SA’s vehicle fleet to become more energy efficient, in line with the Copenhagen Accord. As such, greenhouse gases would be reduced by 40% by 2025 – a self-proclaimed ambitious target.
Nico Vermeulen, director of the National Association of Automotive Manufacturers of SA said that a greener car market in SA is more than possible, as long as there is a strong demand backing the market. “I don’t believe the infrastructure to sustain the electric car market will be costly. In fact, it will be a business opportunity for oil companies to create electric plug-in points at petrol stations.”
He says it takes about half an hour to charge an electric vehicle – the time it takes to fill up and refresh at any petrol station in SA, in any case. “The carbon tax set to come into effect in September may also encourage consumers to choose electric vehicles for financial reasons.”
Meanwhile, Nissan’s headquarters signed an agreement with European governments and electricity providers to make the path smooth for the electric vehicle market. The agreement called for a technical integration between Nissan’s electric vehicles and Enel – an Italian provider of recharging infrastructure – as well as the examination of the development of integrated product and service offerings for the customers of electric vehicles. Furthermore, there will be analysis of various recharging technologies and the services associated with the charging infrastructure.
There will also be a study of the entire battery life cycle, including the possible use of the battery as an energy storage system of energy produced from renewable sources in the second part of its life cycle.
Nissan says: “Electric mobility has enormous potential for environmental improvement in urban transport. Replacing a conventional vehicle with an electric one not only drastically reduces noise and air pollution, but also cuts down CO2 emissions by up to 45% through the average efficiency of the generation park. If power produced from renewable and nuclear energy sources only was to be used, emissions would be practically zeroed.”
Meanwhile, Nissan has developed numerous technologies based on its green programme. “Nissan is continuously studying ways to reach the ultimate efficiency of its vehicles for further carbon emission reduction. As a result, in fiscal 2010, Nissan will introduce a series of innovative technologies on its three- and-four cylinder gasoline engines as well as a new high-efficient hybrid system,” says Shuichi Nishimura of Nissan’s corporate division.