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New Zealand: Nissan’s Leaf well worth it

How much will it cost you to recharge the humungous 192-cell battery of Nissan’s coming electric car, the five-door Leaf?

Around the same as running a heat pump for the night if you can take advantage of off-peak power rates. Early driving tests conducted in this country by Nissan NZ have confirmed that restoring the lithium-ion battery to an optimum 80 per cent charge will cost around $7 when the timer built into the battery charger is set to target the cheapest power available.

That charge will allow the Leaf to travel up to 130km before it needs to be plugged into the national power grid again. It’s doubtful that a pushbike is any cheaper to run, given all the extra carbohydrates consumed by its human engine.

And, unlike the human, there are no emissions by the Leaf as it glides serenely across town, no puffing lungs burning calories into CO2, nor any climate- warming methane escaping noisily from its tailpipe (what tailpipe?).

Ah, but what about the emissions that resulted from generating the power required to recharge the battery, shouldn’t they be accounted for when conducting any audit of the potential environmental impact of the Leaf?

A recent government report says they shouldn’t, as it states that widespread adoption of electric vehicles in this country will result in more efficient use of the existing grid’s capacity. By setting their chargers to begin drawing power at times when demand for electricity is low, electric-vehicle owners will limit the need for our hydro-electric generators to spill water from their dams wastefully at night, the report says.

New Zealand is well positioned to take advantage of EVs because a huge percentage of our power is generated from renewable sources, says Nissan NZ’s managing director, John Manley, and that’s the reason the parent company is so keen to launch the Leaf here.

We’ll get it well ahead of the Australians.

The Leaf is due to arrive in New Zealand showrooms sometime in either late December or early January, at a yet-to-be- determined price. The car is now on sale in the United Kingdom, priced at [PndStlg]25,990.

Judging by other cars that wear similar numbers on their tags in that market like the BMW 3 series sedan, that should equate to a price set in the $65,000-$67,000 territory when the Leaf lands here. That’s just a bit more than the $63,690 Toyota Prius i-Tech, a car that emits 89 grams of CO2 every kilometre that it travels, where the zero-emission Leaf emits none.

Yet for all its appeal to sandal- wearing eco-freaks, the Leaf is a curiously normal car to drive. That’s once you account for a silence when mobile that’s uncanny and strangely endearing. The near-noiseless operation of the car is a good reason for it to possess one of the most clear-eyed and wide-ranging reversing cameras ever fitted to a motor vehicle. Pedestrians, especially toddlers in driveways, are made safer by the wide-angle vision the camera gives to the Leaf’s driver.
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