8 December 2011
While South Africans will have to wait a while before they can buy an electric vehicle (EV), at least a dozen of the zero-emission cars have been doing the rounds in Durban since the start of the UN climate summit (COP 17).
Some COP 17 delegates have been taking advantage of the opportunity to test-drive the Nissan Leaf – “Leading, Environmentally friendly, Affordable, Family car” – which was named World Car of the Year 2011, and the Renault Fluence Z.E.
These vehicles are also being used to shuttle people to and from Durban’s International Convention Centre, venue of the climate talks.
Taking a test-drive
BuaNews found a few minutes to test-drive the vehicles. Initially, looking at a car with a steering wheel on the left hand side brought about some panic, but a few minutes inside and it was all smooth sailing.
The cars are easy to drive (automatic), but it takes a bit of time to become acquainted with their technical aspects. Highly advanced features offer the driver detailed maps, information about energy being used, and battery recharging stations.
EVs are being sold in Europe, Japan and the US and are expected to be launched in South Africa in a few years’ time.
Nissan has announced plans to launch the Nissan Leaf in South Africa in 2013, subject to the successful conclusion of discussions between the government and the motoring industry on the establishment of charging infrastructure and the introduction of customer incentives.
Smaller carbon ‘wheelprints’
The EVs, which can be charged from purely renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, aim to play a critical role in reducing the impact of climate change.
The cars’ batteries can be charged at home. Although they’re more expensive in some countries, people who own the cars are assisted by their governments with free parking in busy cities, tax rebates and other incentives.
How often one recharges the battery depends on the driver – if the air conditioning and lights are used often, then the batteries would have to be charged accordingly.
For music loving South Africans, the good news is that using your radio or CD player takes up minimal energy.
The money that is expected to be saved on petrol is another selling point of the cars. They’re a pleasure to drive, knowing that one is not increasing the carbon footprint. It’s an effortless adventure, with no sounds coming from the engine or exhaust pipe.
At Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium, people can also test-drive a Renault Twizy, an easy-to-drive commuter vehicle that can be plugged into many conventional wall sockets.
The Twizy, designed to be an antidote to the air and noise pollution plaguing some of the world’s biggest cities, can be a bit strange to drive. If you are not a fan of scooters, this little vehicle may not be for you.
“The Renault-Nissan Alliance applauds what South Africa and all the nations represented at COP 17 are doing to reduce the threat to our environment and standard of living due to global warming,” said Hideaki Watanabe, Renault-Nissan Alliance managing director: Zero Emission Business.
“The Alliance wants to be part of the solution for a sustainable society,” said Watanabe. “Our electric vehicles – which consume no fuel whatsoever – offer a real and affordable solution to drastically reducing CO2 emissions.”