Johannesburg Motor Show - The world’s best-selling electric vehicle is now on sale in South Africa - at an eye-watering R446 000.
However, and before the earth crusaders get their hopes up, the Nissan Leaf automatically transforms into a coal-powered vehicle the second it lands on South African soil, thanks to Eskom’s antiquated power-generation methods.
Nissan readily admits that this is not going to be a big seller in South Africa anytime soon. That’s one thing we can be thankful for, because next thing you know Eskom would be telling us to cancel our plans and stay at home to prevent load shedding.
Remember to switch off your geyser while you’re at it.
Nor does Nissan make any claims that this is a highway warrior for weekend getaways. Its official driving range, between charges, is 195km and we suspect that a somewhat lower figure would be obtained in real-world driving conditions.
Still, even if it only managed a shade over 100km, that would still more than cover the average daily commute.
While an overnight charge will be the order of the day, buyers who are able to reach one of the selected Gauteng dealers will be able to use Nissan’s ‘quick charge’ units for free, which can provide an 80 percent charge in 30 minutes.
If you’re in a rush they’ll even do a 10 minute charge, which should allow about 50km.
These facilities will also be available outside office hours.
Initially the Leaf will only be sold at selected Gauteng dealerships, with Durban and Cape Town establishments set to follow during the course of 2014.
Nissan justifies the R446 000 price tag by taking overall running costs into consideration. Nissan SA’s MD Mike Whitfield showed us some charts outlining the six-year running costs of the Leaf. Including the purchase price, this would amount to R470 000 (R22 500 for electricity and R1500 for maintenance), versus R484 000 for a high-spec C-segment petrol-powered hatchback - which Nissan would not name.
It further illustrated that travelling 2500km a month in a Leaf would cost just R310 per month.
At the heart of the Leaf is an 80kW/254Nm electric motor, fed by a Lithium-ion battery pack. The longevity of this battery, given that it’s the vehicle’s most expensive component, could be of concern to owners, but Nissan estimates that it will still have around 80 percent of its capacity in ten years from now.
As for performance, Nissan quotes a not-too-shabby 11.5-second 0-100km/h sprint and 144km/h top speed, but range anxiety will probably prevent most owners from putting those claims to the test very often.
Luxury is very much the order of the day, however, with all Leafs featuring a 180mm touch-screen infotainment system with reverse camera, heated leather seats and automatic climate control. To save the skins of pedestrians who can’t hear it coming, the car also has an Audible Vehicle Sound system.
As mentioned, Nissan has no big sales ambitions for this vehicle and as Whitfield puts it, the company will let the vehicle take off in its own time, whenever that may be. We can’t imagine that time coming anytime soon, particularly as (unlike overseas markets) the government doesn’t provide any incentives for buying electric vehicles, nor is our electricity all that clean. And let’s face it, many of us love the open road.
Yet perhaps the Leaf should be admired for what it is - a pioneering novelty that looks to the future of motoring, as far off as it might seem right now. It’s a bold move on the part of Nissan South Africa.