ESKOM HOLDINGS, MEGAWATT PARK, JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – Nissan yesterday announced a unique three-year research project with electricity utility Eskom that will include testing the Nissan LEAF, Nissan's flagship electric vehicle.

The project is ahead of Nissan SA's plans to formally launch the Nissan LEAF, becoming South Africa's first commercial available fully electric vehicle (EV) - later this year. It follows a pilot programme to promote public awareness with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), and another with the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) with a view to creating a commercially viable infrastructure for the use of electric vehicles. 

The announcement of the Nissan/Eskom collaboration was made by Nissan SA Sales, Marketing and Aftersales director Johan Kleynhans at a vehicle handover ceremony of 10 Nissan LEAF cars. The fleet administration and maintenance of the Electric Vehicles will be managed by Avis Fleet Services (AFS), appointed by Nissan SA to manage the vehicles on Eskom's behalf.

"I'm delighted to be handing over 10 Nissan LEAFs for this research project," said Kleynhans, "the outcome of which will have long term implications for the development of the entire EV industry."

Barry MacColl, Eskom's General Manager, Research, Testing and Development, elaborated on the project. "Eskom has been doing EV research for several years with the intention of understanding the impact of EVs on our grid," he said, "and we also want to understand usage patterns and charging characteristics of the cars themselves in order to design grid solutions and tariffs for e-mobility."

MacColl said that while South Africa uses fossil-based fuels for many of its energy processes, a new approach was in the sights of all concerned. "E-mobility is a way of moving people around in a more effective and cleaner fashion which is critical for the economy," he said. 

MacColl added that Eskom is intent upon finding technology options suitable for implementation within the energy body. He also thanked Avis Fleet Services for their role.

Clive Else, Chief Executive of Avis Fleet Services, said his company was proud to be associated with the project.

"The involvement of Avis Fleet Services, South Africa's largest fleet management services company, early in the introduction cycle of this exciting vehicle will help establish AFS as a local leader in the practical application of this technology for our customers," said Else. 

Kleynhans acknowledged that a full-on launch of EVs, including the LEAF, in the South African market is subject to finalisation of government legislation, but he reiterated Nissan's intent to launch the vehicle for sale before the year-end.

"We are collaborating with all concerned in the e-mobility programme by providing our hands-on experience with EVs and the infrastructure required," said Kleynhans.

The award-winning* Nissan LEAF is the world's first viable, mass market electric vehicle and has already been rolled out in Japan, the USA and Europe. 

With over 60, 000 LEAFs sold globally to date, Kleynhans added that Nissan would be bringing its knowledge of best practices and benchmarking information to support the overall objectives of the programme. 

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*Accolades for Nissan LEAF 

  1. 2011 European Car of the Year
  2. 2011 World Car of the Year
  3. 2011-2012 Japanese Car of the Year
  4. 2011 EV of the year by
  5. 2011 Eco-Friendly car of the year by
  6. 2010 Green Car Vision Award by Green Car Journal
  7. 2010 Breakthrough Award by Popular Mechanics
  8. 50 Best inventions of 2009 by Time magazine