Edaran Tan Chong Motor Sdn Bhd (ETCM) has recently launched the Nissan LEAF Pilot Program, the first-ever program in Malaysia which involves a Nissan electric vehicle (EV).

The program, entitled ‘Journey to Zero Emission’ demonstrates Tan Chong Motor’s support for the Malaysian government initiative to promote Green technology and ensure sustainable development.

The initiative, outlined in the National Green Technology Policy announced by the Prime Minister in July 2009, aims to conserve the natural environment and resources as well as reduce the high emissions of carbon which is known to contribute to global warming.

Incentives have been provided through the National Automotive Policy to those companies which promote hybrid, electric vehicles and development of related infrastructure. The Malaysian government’s green direction is praiseworthy and in line with Nissan’s commitment to be the global leader in zero-emission mobility, hence the ‘Journey to Zero Emission’ undertaken by ETCM.

“Edaran Tan Chong Motor supports the green direction set by the Malaysian government and will assist the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water to achieve its goal of having 10% to 15% electric vehicle penetration in the market by 2020,” said Dato’ Dr. Ang Bon Beng, Executive Director of ETCM.

“Our ‘Journey to Zero Emission’ includes a pilot program utilizing the Nissan LEAF which will engage government agencies, members of the media, as well as the public to promote awareness of electric vehicles, showing that such vehicles can offer a comfortable and fun zero-emission motoring experience,” he explained.

While global fuel prices have gone up, ETCM hopes that data and insights gathered during this program will be positive in the future mass adoption of Electric Vehicles, and contribute to the reduction in fuel subsidies in Malaysia.

Dato’ Dr. Ang also clarified that the company is not selling the LEAF or any other EV model at this stage as the first step is to create better awareness of EVs and their benefits and also to get feedback of the vehicle in use in Malaysian conditions. This feedback will be shared with Nissan Motor so that when the LEAF is offered for sale in the future, it will be fully compatible with local driving conditions and the requirements of Malaysian motorists.

The Nissan LEAF pilot program will be conducted mainly in the Klang Valley area which has the largest vehicle population and urban concentration in Malaysia.

During the program, there will be roadshows and other activities to promote greater awareness of the Nissan LEAF and Nissan’s EV technology. The public will also have an opportunity to test-drive the Nissan LEAF at selected locations so that they can have a personal experience of an EV.

Besides offering the LEAF to the media and public for test-drives, ETCM will select few Malaysians to be LEAF Ambassadors who will ‘live’ with the EV for an extended period of up to two months.

These ambassadors, representing a cross-section of Malaysians, will use the vehicle in their daily lives, share their experiences with their friends, and also provide valuable feedback to ETCM on the performance of the LEAF in Malaysian conditions. ETCM will provide each with a unit of the LEAF and install the necessary equipment at their homes for recharging the vehicle.

The Nissan LEAF is the first mass-produced EV by Nissan Motor and has been on sale in a number of countries since December 2010. To date, over 27,000 of units have been sold, mainly in Japan and the USA.

It uses a unique platform that bears a 24-kWh lithium-ion battery pack as well as an electric motor with 80kW (107hp) and 280Nm of torque. Nissan says, the Leaf should be able to go 160 km between charges and has a top speed of over 140km/h.

The LEAF takes no more than 8 hours to fully charge through a socket in the front but what is particularly useful is its quick charge capability for an 80% charge in just half an hour. Fully recharging the LEAF will incur an electricity cost of RM7.90 (based on current TNB rates) and with a range of 160 km, the cost per km for the LEAF is 5 cents which is much lower than hybrid and petrol powered cars.

The LEAF might not look big from the outside, but it is actually quite spacious inside. Nissan says the Leaf can fit five adults comfortably.

The LEAF’s battery pack is located under the floor beneath the seats. This space-efficient placement is partially responsible for the car’s roomy rear seats.

 

The boot area is amazingly spacious too. According to Nissan, the boot space is large enough to store two golf bags. However, even when you fold the rear seats, the boot floor is not flat.

The LEAF interior is actually pretty stylish with its cool beige colour. The gear lever is a rounded knob which looks rather like a PC mouse, while the centre console has a 7” colour screen to display myriad information such as how much power you’ve used, how much charge your car has left and can even tell it to begin or to stop charging remotely (if plugged in).

In front of the driver, the two-tier twin digital meters display the requisite speedometer, eco meter for efficient driving and power output meter, among others.

Much attention has been given to the safety of the occupants as well as for other road-users around the Leaf. The all-electric Nissan LEAF has earned a 5-star overall vehicle rating for safety as part of the Euro National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s New Car Assessment Program (NCAP).

Besides SRS airbags and curtain airbags over the windows, the structure also has Nissan’s Zone Body Construction to prevent collision force from causing serious injuries. Additionally, high voltage parts are protected by the body structure and layout of components. All high voltage systems will be instantly shut down to ensure the safety of the occupants as well as rescuers.

The LEAF couldn’t be simpler to drive. After climbing aboard and pushing the start button, simply select ‘D’ on the automatic gearbox and it pulls away smoothly.

If you have driven a hybrid before, you know how silent they are in electric-only mode. The Nissan LEAF cruises with this kind of serenity at all times, with only a vague high-pitched whine detectable under heavy throttle. Even the high-pitched noise the LEAF generates to alert pedestrians at low speeds is largely undetectable in the cabin. The downside is that wind and road noise are more noticeable at highway speeds, but overall the Leaf is impressively quiet.

As an electric car, the LEAF offers abundant torque. Acceleration is brisk from the first tap of the throttle, and the car gets up to speed with little fuss. Press on the brake and the pedal is firm and sure, without the sort of strange, vague feel indicative of most regenerative braking systems.

With its battery pack mounted low in the body and a well-tuned electric power steering system, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well the LEAF takes turns. Its responsiveness is typical of that seen in other well-engineered compact family cars, and in most ways the LEAF feels pretty normal, easy and fun to drive.



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