08 April 2013

'Turning Over A New Leaf' In Europe

The above expression of turning over a new leaf means making a new start. Is the car industry about to make that change and turn to to electric car manufacturing? Of course public opinion will ultimately decide that. With limited range they will always be unsuitable for many and with the high price of batteries, electric cars have to come with subsidies and other concessions to make them an attractive purchase decision at all. Is this the only way to get motorists behind the wheel of a non-fossil fuel car? For now, yes.

Despite that, a leaf has been turned at the Nissan plant in Sunderland, UK with commencement of European manufacturing the Nissan Leaf electric car. Previously they came from Japan but now they are made in the Euro market itself. It took four years to get the factory ready to produce the car, with both the batteries and the cars made there. The new Leaf coming out of Sunderland has a better mileage range than before and Nissan have halved the charging time from the first model.

Is the Leaf going to succeed? In 2012, 2,300 were sold in Norway, 700 in the UK, 450 in Germany and 150 in Spain to give a cross section of how it went in Europe. So outside of Norway, it moved in very modest numbers. For the just  mentioned Nordic nation, there are good incentives to go electric; other countries have various ways to entice buyers but are not quite so generous with the carrot.

For the first three months of 2013, 850 sold in Noway and 300 in the UK so that is positive. More charging points are needed in Europe (just over 20,000 so far) and those subsidies are required to make them a viable purchase option. Will electric cars charge ahead or are they like an autumn leaf that blows away? The road forward is uncertain but it is a practical and sensible car that deserves to succeed.

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