Electric vehicles hit Durban streets

COP17 delegates are being given a chance to test drive the Nissan LEAF, named World Car of the Year 2011, and Renault Fluence Z.E. courtesy of Renault-Nissan Alliance. These vehicles are also being used to shuttle people attending the climate change talks.

BuaNews found a few minutes to test drive the vehicles. Initially, looking at a car with a steering wheel on the left hand side brought about some panic but a minute in it and it was all smooth sailing.

The cars are easy to drive (automatic) but take a bit of time to become well acquainted with the technical aspects. Highly advanced technological features offer the driver detailed maps, information about energy being used and battery recharging stations.

EVs are being sold in Europe, Japan and the US and are expected to be launched in South Africa in a few years’ time.

Nissan has announced plans to launch Nissan LEAF in South Africa in 2013, subject to the successful conclusion of discussions between the government and the motoring industry on the establishment of a charging infrastructure and the introduction of customer incentives.

The EVs, which can be charged from purely renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, aim to play a critical role in reducing the impact of climate change.

Batteries in the cars can be charged at your home. Although the cars are more expensive in some countries, people who own them are assisted by government with free parking in busy cities, tax rebates and other incentives.

How often you recharge the battery depends on the driver – if the air conditioning and lights are used often, then batteries would have to be charged accordingly.

For music loving South Africans, the good news is that using your radio or CD players takes up minimal energy.

The money that is expected to be saved on petrol is another selling point of the cars. The cars are a pleasure to drive, knowing that you are not increasing the carbon footprint. It’s an effortless adventure with no sounds coming from the engine or exhaust pipe.

People who are around the Moses Mabhida Stadium could test drive a Renault Twizy, an easy-to-drive commuter vehicle that can be plugged into many conventional wall sockets.

The Twizy, designed to be an antidote to the air and noise pollution plaguing some of the world’s biggest cities, can be a bit strange to drive. If you are not a fan of scooters, this little vehicle may not be for you.

"The Renault-Nissan Alliance applauds what South Africa and all the nations represented at COP17 are doing to reduce the threat to our environment and standard of living due to global warming," said Hideaki Watanabe, Renault-Nissan Alliance managing director: Zero Emission Business.

"The Alliance wants to be part of the solution for a sustainable society. Our electric vehicles – which consume no fuel whatsoever – offer a real and affordable solution to drastically reducing CO2 emissions."