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Electric car market ready for fresh charge as Nissan Leaf breezes in

Thursday 18 April 2013 12.25 EDT
Electric car market ready for fresh charge as Nissan Leaf breezes in
First electric car to be made in UK adds to wide choice for green-minded motorists as campaigners sense change in attitudes

A Nissan Leaf electric car being polished at the carmaker’s plant in Sunderland. Photograph: Anna Gowthorpe/PA
Jennifer Rankin
Anyone looking under the bonnet of the Nissan Leaf – the Japanese carmaker’s all-electric rival to the Ford Focus – could be in for a surprise. With its tangle of boxes and wires, the Leaf’s engine seems just like a conventional one – but without the oily grime.
“The weirdest part of the car is how normal it looks underneath,” said Lee Twomey, a Nissan sales adviser. Several parts have been deliberately bulked up, to reassure customers used to the weight of a petrol or diesel engine.
The latest version of the Leaf, the first electric car made in Britain, rolled into showrooms across the country this month, taking the range of alternative-fuel cars on the UK market to 36.
This week, the centre-left thinktank the Institute for Public Policy Research urged the government to give drivers of green vehicles free access to car parks, toll roads and congestion charge zones, using a green badge scheme similar to the blue badge for disabled drivers.
Next week, electric cars are likely to get a further boost. The European parliament is expected to approve measures to stoke production of electric cars and other low-carbon vehicles – a significant lift for a mode of transport once derided as fit only for golf buggies and milk carts.
Nissan hopes the new Leaf, cheaper than the old model and with a shorter charging time and longer driving range, will tempt buyers looking for a family runaround.
The Japanese company is betting big on the all-electric car – chief executive Carlos Ghosn has predicted electric cars will make up 10% of global demand for new cars by 2020 – as it positions itself in a marketplace where others, such as Toyota, have already carved out niches making hybrid vehicles.


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