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SPECIAL FEATURE: First 100% electric car in South Africa

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“The new Nissan LEAF represents one of the most significant events that Nissan South Africa has ever undertaken.”

Retail sales have commenced in November via a dedicated Nissan LEAF dealer network covering Johannesburg and Pretoria. A charging infrastructure has been implemented at convenient locations to provide a new, environmentally sustainable way of travelling.

Says Mike Whitfield, Nissan South Africa Managing Director: “The new 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 manufacturers in the future.

“The Nissan LEAF is just like any other high-quality, spacious, practical and easy-to-drive family hatchback – the only difference is that you never need to fill it up with fuel. Convenient charging from home, at work or from one of the free quick-charging points which are implemented now at some Gauteng-based Nissan dealers means the Nissan LEAF can become a truly workable solution to everyday transport needs and at vastly reduced running costs as well.”

Driving the future, today

Besides its unique body design which features a host of aerodynamically honed elements and energy-saving measures, the Nissan LEAF subscribes to Nissan’s ‘Innovation that Excites’ brand ideology thanks to the implementation of futuristic engineering and true zero-emission practicality.

Built in Japan, the Nissan LEAF has racked up international accolades, including the 2011 European Car of the Year title, the 2011–2012 Japanese Car of the Year award, and the 2011 World Car of the Year honours.

Performance

At the very core of the Nissan LEAF is laminated lithium-ion battery technology.

Owing to the battery pack’s low-down position and its flat architecture, the vehicle’s low centre of gravity and superbly balanced weight distribution means that handling dynamics are superior.

Drawing from the energy stored in the 24 kWh Li-ion batteries, an electric motor takes pride of place up front, in the same position as a conventional internal combustion engine, under the bonnet of the Nissan LEAF. The AC synchronous electric motor powers the
front wheels via a single-speed gear reduction transmission. With 80 kW of power between 3 008 and 10 000 rpm and a substantial torque peak of 254 Nm from 0 rpm to 3 008 rpm, the Nissan LEAF is literally electric to drive. Electric power is available from the moment the driver depresses the accelerator pedal, the torque allowing for instantaneous and extremely smooth acceleration.

The 0–100 km/h dash is completed in 11.5 seconds and top speed is 144 km/h. Range on a fully charged battery pack is as much as 195 km.

Charging can be done in various ways, each of which offering different charge times and capacities to suit the needs of the driver. Each Nissan LEAF is sold with a home charger, which is installed by specialised technicians in the owner’s home upon purchase. A normal charge from empty in this manner takes up to seven hours, making it easily possible to maintain charge every evening. Studies from overseas markets show that over 90% of charging is conducted in this way, as most drivers do not drive more than 100 km per day.

At launch as part of phase one of the Nissan LEAF roll-out, select Nissan dealers in Gauteng also provide Nissan LEAF ‘quick charge’ stations, each of which is free of charge for Nissan LEAF owners. The quick charge units, which are accessible even after hours, provide a specialised electric current which is able to charge the battery pack from empty to 80% in just 30 minutes. A quick 10-minute top-up will give the driver an additional 50 km of range.

One of the most prominent and futuristic features of the Nissan LEAF is of course its completely silent operation. While manoeuvring in parking lots or standing still at traffic lights, for example, the Nissan LEAF is utterly silent. In an effort to minimise wind and tyre noise intrusion at higher speeds however, the Nissan LEAF features aerodynamic enhancements which shape the air around the vehicle to minimise noise and aerodynamic drag as well.

Cost of ownership

Whitfield continues: “We know that one of the biggest questions surrounding the introduction of the Nissan LEAF is going to revolve around cost of ownership versus internal combustion and hybrid competitors.

“Although the revolutionary technology in the Nissan LEAF does carry a justifiably higher purchase price than competing C-segment hatchbacks, overall cost of ownership is competitive thanks to the significantly lower price of electricity compared to that of petrol or diesel and the way in which the Nissan LEAF is able to harness its power for maximum effectiveness.”

Compared to an equivalent petrol, diesel or hybrid vehicle, the Nissan LEAF offers substantial cost reductions on a monthly basis, assuming an average driving distance of 2 500 km per month. With today’s inland cost of electricity, petrol and diesel savings of close to 90% are possible by switching to 100% electric. Similarly, based on a six year ownership period, the Nissan LEAF presents a more cost-effective alternative to petrol, diesel or hybrid competitors:

“We have already been running pilot projects with several South African institutions,” continues Whitfield. “Nissan LEAF vehicles have been doing duty with the likes of Eskom, the Department of Environmental Affairs, the Technology Innovation Agency and our fleet services partner, Avis – and the response has been extremely positive. New technologies always take a while to adopt and find favour with the general public, and in this vein the Nissan LEAF calls for adjustments to the way people plan their travelling and make use of their vehicles.

“What we can confirm through our pilot projects is that the Nissan LEAF is a vehicle that is captivating South African motorists and has been extremely positively received thus far.”

Specifications to match EV prowess

The new Nissan LEAF comes with a substantial list of features and equipment which add value and class to the already pride-inducing connotations.

Luxurious extras include heated seats front and rear, full leather upholstery, keyless access and starting, a rear-view camera with an innovative audible vehicle sound for pedestrians (VSP) warning system which aids in warning pedestrians who cannot hear the Nissan LEAF around them, automatic lights and wipers, cruise control, Bluetooth, and a fully interactive 7” touchscreen infotainment interface with full audio format support, USB and auxiliary integration, EV information and fully automatic climate control.

A host of energy-saving measures have been taken by fitting the Nissan LEAF with innovative and segment-leading features like the self-levelling LED headlights which are extremely energy-efficient but also provide highly effective lighting, and the roof spoilermounted solar panel, which aids in keeping the conventional 12-volt battery charged to power the entertainment system, as an example.

Taking care of the future, today

Besides the obvious emission-free environmental benefits which the Nissan LEAF offers, other factors in its construction phases and indeed at the end of its life ensure that in every possible way, the Nissan LEAF cares for the environment. Up to 99% of the Nissan
LEAF is recyclable, and in fact more than 60% of the plastics used in its interior are made from recycled materials – including used water bottles. The batteries too are recyclable, being able to be removed, refabricated and resold for other battery-based uses.

“What the Nissan LEAF represents is the future of driving, today. It is 100% electric, 100% real, available right now. The Nissan LEAF also represents Nissan’s future, a future in which electric vehicles play a prominent role,” concludes Whitfield.

Pricing and warranties

The new Nissan LEAF retails as of November 2013 for R446 000 including a three-year / 90 000 km service plan linked to service intervals of 15 000 km. Roadside assistance and a three-year / 100 000 km mechanical warranty are also included.

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