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Nissan's electric Leaf to cause a buzz?

The new Nissan Leaf is the first all-electric car (EV) to be made in the UK and its makers and many other interested parties, have high hopes for this latest EV offering. The new car is cheaper than its predecessor and there is a feeling in some circles that UK drivers are changing their attitudes towards EVs. The car is designed to be 'normal' looking, so as not to frighten off drivers used to petrol and diesel cars.

The new Nissan Leaf is the first all-electric car (EV) to be made in the UK and its makers and many other interested parties, have high hopes for this latest EV offering. The new car is cheaper than its predecessor and there is a feeling in some circles that UK drivers are changing their attitudes towards EVs. The car is designed to be 'normal' looking, so as not to frighten off drivers used to petrol and diesel cars. Under the bonnet, Nissan has even deliberately bulked up components to make it reassuring for motorists used to the heft of internal combustion engine parts.

This latest Leaf makes a total of 36 'alternatively fuelled' vehicles available in the UK market, a number which includes all those electric-petrol / diesel hybrids. This trend is being actively encouraged, with left-wing think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research, suggesting this week that EVs be given free access to car parks, congestion charge zones and toll roads; much the same sort of exemptions as blue badge holders currently enjoy. The EU is on the case too and next week will bring in a raft of measures designed to increase production of EVs.

Nissan is betting big on the new Leaf, which has a longer range than its predecessor, shorter charge time and cheaper sticker price. The company is hoping this package will be enough to tempt families away from traditional micro cars and superminis for their urban runabouts and predicts that by 2020 10% of the motors we buy will be electric. The government also has a dog in this race. Visiting the Sunderland plant which makes the Leaf last month, David Cameron hailed the car as "the best possible rebuke to those who say we in Britain don't design things any more, we don't make things any more".

Well he might. According to the Committee on Climate Change, there needs to be some 1.7 million electric vehicles on Britain's roads by 2020 if the government is to meet its greenhouse gas commitments. There is some way to go. Despite positive noises about a change in perception, only 1,262 EVs were sold in the UK last year. That compares somewhat unfavourably with two million normally powered cars sold. Anxieties about range remain and they are well-founded with electric cars having a range of less than 100 miles between charges. Concerns about battery life and the high initial cost of EVs are other factors that must be tackled for the government to come anywhere close to those targets.
 

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