By Tristan Wiggill
aBr Editor, Tristan Wiggill (TW) spoke to Edwin Matlou (EM), Product Manager - Electric Vehicles & New Technology at Nissan SA to learn more about the all-electric Nissan LEAF.
TW: Understandably, normal service requirements for the LEAF are different to traditional internal combustion engined cars. What items need to be serviced and what are the standard service intervals?
EM: Indeed, Electric Vehicles (EV) service standards are different to those of internal combustion engine vehicles. There are common parts with conventional cars such as tyres, suspension, brakes that will need frequent servicing or replacement. Brake pads will need to be replaced, but at potentially longer intervals than the norm. This is because some of the braking in EVs is done with the electric motor. The electric drive system has far less moving parts than internal combustion engines and will need less maintenance. The batteries do not have regular service requirements - only 15 000 km health checks need to be performed.
TW: What is the standard factory warranty period?
EM: The standard warranty period for Nissan LEAF is 3 years/100 000 km.
TW: Could the vehicle be serviced by independent workshops/the aftermarket once the LEAF is out of warranty?
EM: No. The Nissan LEAF will only be serviced by trained technicians. There are specialised tools that are used to service electric vehicles. Nissan has a number of approved dealers who are fully qualified to service Nissan LEAF.
TW: What are the expected lifespans of the battery and electric motor respectively?
EM: The expected lifespan of the battery is between 8 and 10 years. However, the batteries will still have 80% capacity. The motor has many years of hassle free motoring because of its frictionless system, low maintenance as well as minimal wear and tear which makes it last far longer than fuel vehicles.
TW: How do South African technicians learn how to service and repair LEAF’s given that electric vehicle technology is not covered by the curriculum at FET Colleges?
EM: Nissan SA has trained and certified a number of technicians to service the LEAF; however we are working on a plan to introduce EVs as part of the curriculum for FET (Further Education & Training) colleges.
TW: What happens if a person runs out of power on the road? How will the car be re-started? Can it be towed away?
EM: Nissan has agreement with vehicle recovery specialists Tracker. Should a customer encounter such an emergency, they can contact Tracker directly or use their smart phones to activate the emergency response. The car would therefore be loaded on a flat bed where it would be taken to the nearest charging point.
TW: If an owner wants to drive from Joburg to Durban, how will this be achieved? Are there plans to include fast-charging stations along popular routes (at Ultracities on the N3 for example?)
EM: Because EVs have a limited distance range on single full charge, the Nissan LEAF is not equipped for long distances but urban city driving. As battery technology improves over the years, we are likely to see the range increase. As part of our future plans, we are in negotiations with a number of infrastructure partners to install EV chargers at designated areas of business for the end consumer.
TW: Will the LEAF act as a test-bed for other electric vehicles from Nissan (like the Toyota Prius has been for Toyota)?
EM: Yes, Nissan is planning to introduce other electric technology vehicles in more markets. This will include Hybrid fuel cell cars.
TW: Do items such as the air-con, radio and lights impact the range of the LEAF? (Is the range reduced at night due to lights etc?)
EM: The range is affected by a number of factors which include driving styles, the air conditioning system and road conditions among others. The radio and lights run from a 12V solar battery situated at the top rear of the Nissan LEAF.
TW: Can colder temperatures impact the battery? How is the battery protected from the cold?
EM: Nissan LEAF has been tested in every climate imaginable (cold and hot temperatures). The battery also includes a heater for below zero temperatures.
TW: What has been done to ensure that the LEAF can withstand a major accident without exploding?
EM: There is a shut-off system which has a high voltage from Li-ion batteries. This is able to shut off in the case of collision or system failure, as there is no flammable fuel in an EV, this means there is even lower risk of a potential fire in an accident.
TW: Electric vehicles aren’t new - and have failed in the past to gain mainstream acceptance. What’s different this time around?
EM: We are confident that the time is right for electric vehicles. The technology and infrastructures put in place for EVs in the 21st century is something to be proud of. We announced the introduction of Nissan LEAF at this year’s Johannesburg International Motor Show. The reaction of both the media and general public was overwhelmingly positive and it’s clear to see that the South African public is ready to begin adopting this new form of mobility. This is in line with other global markets where LEAF is already extremely popular – for example in October LEAF was Norway’s best-selling vehicle overall.
We are the first manufacturer to retail an EV in South Africa and after meticulous planning and strategic pilot programmes involving Eskom, the Technology Innovation Agency and Department of Environmental Affairs, we believe the Nissan LEAF is reaching the eco-conscious South African consumer at the right time. With the first retail units making their way into the hands of private owners, we are already seeing positive steps being taken by the South African market, where EV mobility is being positively received on all fronts. In addition to zero tailpipe emissions, LEAF is sublime to drive with an absolutely quiet ride and comes highly-specced with luxurious extras and top-quality finishes.
Add to this the overall low cost of ownership and maintenance costs, and the fact that LEAF is available as an outright buy rather than on a lease scheme, the revolutionary Nissan LEAF is a strikingly attractive alternative to conventional petrol, diesel or hybrid vehicles.