South Africa’s first commercially available fully electric car, the Nissan Leaf, is on sale, despite the absence of government incentives.
Speaking at the official introduction of the car into the South African market at the Johannesburg International Motor Show, Mike Whitfield, managing director of Nissan South Africa, said the Leaf’s sales price of R446 000 might seem costly.
However, if one includes electricity costs of about R22 500 over a six-year period and maintenance costs of R1 500, the total cost of the car over the six-year period (R470 000) compares favourably to the total cost of ownership of equivalent petrol (R484 000) or hybrid (R505 000) models over the same period, he said.
Whitfield said the vehicle’s monthly running cost of about R300 will be key to its successful introduction.
“If you look at the rising cost of fuel, it starts becoming an attractive alternative.”
Whitfield did not want to be drawn on local sales targets for the vehicles. He said the introduction of the Leaf is about launching new technology and not about numbers.
Nissan SA does not expect to sell hundreds of the vehicles; the technology is new and will take off in its own time. But the interest so far has been phenomenal, he said.
While industry commentators have emphasised that government incentives will be crucial to the successful introduction of electric vehicles in the local market, there are no such incentives available to Leaf buyers.
Internationally, most countries that have introduced electric vehicles have stimulated demand by introducing various incentive programs.
BMW South Africa also has plans to introduce its i3 and i8 electric models in SA in the near future.
Whitfield said if such incentives are officially announced, it could take the form of reduced etolls or tax incentives. Nothing has been confirmed in this regard.
World’s first mass-produced electric vehicle
Since its launch in 2010, more than 78 000 Nissan Leaf models have been sold worldwide. The car has a 195 km range and a top speed of 145 km/h. The battery can be fully charged at home in 7 hours. A quick charge (up to 80%) takes about 30 minutes.
International research suggests that 80% of the world’s population do not drive more than a 100km a day.
Whitfield said introducing charging infrastructure will be a challenge, but ultimately people will start to understand and feel comfortable that they don’t actually need a vehicle that can drive more than 200 km a day.
“This isn’t the car to go and drive to Durban.”
Charging infrastructure will have to be installed at the homes of buyers. Charging stations will also be installed at specific Nissan dealers in Gauteng, Durban and Cape Town, which would be used free of charge.
The Nissan Leaf is imported from Japan.