Latest Nissan Leaf heads to South Africa

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“You cannot go long distances but it makes perfect sense for a city where you are commuter and you use the vehicle as a communing vehicle. We would also have to think about the size of the vehicle because it doesn’t make sense for you to travel between work and home carrying one tonne or two tonnes of steel with you and just leaving it outside. So we need to redefine mobility,” Carel Snyman, senior manager for Green Transport at the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), told CNBC Africa on Friday.

The latest Leaf model, which is already selling in Europe, has a range of 195 kilometres and motorists who travel 25,000 kilometres a year would need to recharge their car only every third day.

The electric car will significantly reduce carbon emissions and despite South Africa’s electricity capacity shortage, Snyman believes that having an electric car will have minimal impact on electricity capacity if cars are charged during the night.

 “We don’t have a shortage of electricity, we have a capacity problem.  We cannot generate enough at peak times but we are sitting in one time zone so overnight there’s lot of electricity available. I’ve calculated the number, you can support about 6 million cars, each driving 50 kilometres a day with off peak electricity at night,” Snyman explained.

He also emphasised that the smaller the size of the car is, the less electricity it is likely to use.

In America, New York authorities are attempting to slowly phase out petrol cab services and bringing in electric cars into its public transport industry.

The electric car phase in the world right now, however, is a lot more commuters based than for the individual in terms of cost. Snyman estimated the current cost of an electric car as between 250,000 rand and 300,000 rand (US$ 25K to US$ 30K)

Nissan has already sold 70,000 of its Leaf model worldwide, with combined Leaf sales in China and Japan amounting to 3,000 units sold in a single month. 

“People will buy electric vehicles. It will be slow in uptake because the vehicle is more expensive and does not offer the full utility that a normal petrol car that people are used to offers. Electric vehicles will find their niche,” said Snyman.