Monday, 3 August 2009


Nissan is scooping its two main rivals Toyota and Honda by announcing the world’s first mass-produced electric vehicle. The other two Japanese are still producing hybrids, a compromise combination of petrol and electric power. The LEAF was unveiled yesterday (Sunday, 02 August 2009) and is said to be the blueprint for upcoming electric vehicles (EVs) from Nissan as well as its alliance partner Renault.

“Nissan LEAF is a tremendous accomplishment,” Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn was quoted as saying, “one in which all Nissan employees can take great pride. We have been working tirelessly to make this day a reality - the unveiling of a real-world car that has zero - not simply reduced - emissions. It's the first step in what is sure to be an exciting journey - for people all over the world, for Nissan and for the industry.”

The LEAF is basically powered by a pack of laminated lithium-ion batteries and an electric motor. The batteries make over 90kW and the electric motor delivers 80kW and 280Nm of torque. Great news, considering that these numbers are similar to what a mid-sized turbo diesel engine will produce, but without the dreaded emissions. Because it produces no fumes it is designed not to have an exhaust system and probably doesn’t make the same sound that other cars make.

Where the diesel will trounce the LEAF is in the range. A diesel motor of this capability should give the driver a range of over 650km under normal driving conditions while the LEAF is said to only be capable of 160km range.

Nevertheless should people get interested in this car they will no longer be required to care much about the petrol or diesel price as they can recharge their cars at home through the normal electric power socket. It will take about 8 hours to fully recharge an empty LEAF but a quick recharge of up to 80% of power can be achieved via a quick charger system in about 30 minutes. That means while you save on petrol costs at the pump you might still end up paying more for your electricity at home. There will also be public recharging stations as well, just like the current petrol stations.

What about cost? Nissan says the car won’t be expensive, hence its mass-market status. It should be priced in the C segment which means playing with the likes of Ford Focus, Mazda3, Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Civic, Peugeot 308 and Volkswagen Golf.

Public launch is in 2010 for the US, Europe and Japan. Nissan South Africa has not said anything about the LEAF but rest assured that when they do you’ll be first to know.