Nissan has opened its order books for its Golf-sized Leaf electric vehicle (EV) in Ireland and Portugal. Customers in the UK can place their orders from the beginning of September. The first deliveries will take place in January (Portugal), February (Ireland) and March (UK).
The company describes the Leaf as "the world's first affordable mass-produced, zero-emission vehicle" and for once the motor industry hype isn't too far wide of the mark. Apart from the perennial EV problem of limited range, the Leaf offers most of the space and performance of conventionally powered cars in the same bracket at a price that isn't too much higher than existing mid-sized hybrids such as Toyota's Prius.
Top speed is only 90mph, lower than existing petrols, diesels and hybrids, but this is unlikely to be a limitation on British roads and, if the Tida prototype is any guide, the Leaf will compensate with typical EV-style lively off-the-line acceleration. Nissan estimates running costs at just £1.59 per 100km (62 miles), and says that the car's list price will be £23,990, now that the new coalition government has agreed, after a period of uncertainty, to retain the previous administration's planned subsidies for EVs.
Nissan's great achievement, though is in getting such a well-rounded, purpose-built EV into full series production at a time when most competitors are still just conducting trials on more (Smart, Mitsubishi) or less (Mini E) convincing adaptations of existing models, and wrestling with high prices and fundamental issues such as whether to include the battery in the price of the car, or sell it or lease it separately (the Leaf is sold on a "batteries included" basis).