Nissan Leaf electric car wins Japan car of the year

Japanese motor giant Nissan won Car of the Year Japan at the Tokyo Motor Show on Saturday for its Leaf electric car, its makers said, the first time an electric vehicle has picked up the award.

Electric cars with cutting-edge green technology and vehicles remote-controlled by smartphones have been a star feature at this year’s show, which runs till December 11 and features 179 exhibitors from a dozen countries.

"Nissan is proud to announce that its 100 percent electric Leaf car has won the Japanese Car of the Year prize," Japan’s second-largest automaker said in a statement.

The Nissan Leaf electric is a zero-emission vehicle fitted with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Since its launch on the market at the end of last year, some 20,000 models have been sold, notably in Japan and in the US.

"All these accolades show that zero-emission vehicles can clearly be competitive alternatives to conventional ones," Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn said.

Nissan, which is part-owned by France’s Renault, has invested some 4 billion euros ($5 bn) in the development of these electric cars.

Ghosn said that in five years, Nissan and Renault will have sold 1.5 million of the vehicles, and estimated the world market for electric cars would jump from 0.05 percent today, to 15 percent in ten years.

The hybrid (fuel and electric) would also see an increase from 1 percent today to between 5 and 10 percent over the same period, Ghosn added.

Nissan is trailing several electric concept vehicles at the Motor Show, including the Pivo 3, which can be remotely manoeuvered with a smart phone.

It has installed automotive telematics in the Leaf electric car, allowing drivers to remotely control the air conditioning system and check on a car’s battery using their smart phone or personal computer.