Nissan’s electric Leaf could come to SA in 2012, but would require govt incentives

    The Nissan Leaf

    Picture by: Irma VenterThe Nissan Leaf

    The Nissan Leaf electric vehicle could possibly come to South Africa in 2012, says Nissan South Africa MD Mike Whitfield.

    However, he adds that the local arm of the Japanese company does not want to bring the passenger car to the market “at a massive premium to a petrol car”.

    This means that the South African government may have to incentivise the use of zero-emission electric vehicles, similar to what has been the case in other parts of the world. In California, for example, electric vehicles receive an incentive of between $7 000 to $8 000 a car, as they are still much more expensive than a standard petrol or diesel vehicle of comparable size.

    Whitfield says that it is important to also bring the Leaf to South Africa as the country “needs to at least participate in the rolling out of electric vehicles. We cannot simply be left behind”.

    He says that Nissan is currently in talks with government on incentives that could possibly be introduced to aid the Leaf’s roll-out in South Africa, such as lower import duties, or lower company car tax on electric vehicles.

    “These are things we consider as possibilities. If we can get comparable costs to that of a petrol car, we can maybe sell 5 000 Leafs in South Africa over a five-year period.”

    Whitfield says that government is required to create the regulatory framework for the introduction of electric vehicles, while implementing charging infrastructure is a business opportunity available to anyone.

    It is estimated that between 10% and 20% of all new passenger cars sold worldwide in 2020 will be electric vehicles.

    The Leaf was already crowned as the 2011 European Car of the Year in November.

The world’s first mass-marketed, affordable, zero-emission vehicle for the global market had to beat 40 contenders to win this accolade.

    The jury included 57 motoring journalists from 23 European countries.

    What makes the accolade rather amazing is that European deliveries of the vehicle will only start in early 2011 to Portugal, Ireland, the UK and the Netherlands. Deliveries in Japan and the US begin this month.

    The Leaf is currently being built in Japan, but will also be produced in North America and Europe when new manufacturing facilities open in late 2012 and early 2013.

“The jury acknowledged today that the Nissan Leaf is a breakthrough for electric cars. Nissan Leaf is the first electric vehicle that can match conventional cars in many respects,” said Car of the Year jury president Håkan Matson.

The Leaf is powered by a compact electric motor in the front of the car, which drives the front wheels. The motor develops 80 kW of power and 280 Nm of torque, enough for a maximum speed of 145 km/h. The electric motor is powered by a Nissan-developed laminated lithium-ion battery with an output of more than 90 kW.

    The car has a range of 175 km between charges.

    Nissan has three other electric vehicles in the pipeline.

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