Nissan's all-electric, highly awarded Leaf will go on sale in New Zealand in July. The five-door hatch will sell for $69,700 and the first buyer, Sovereign - New Zealand's largest life insurer - got in early and has already taken delivery of the Leaf.
Nissan New Zealand managing director John Manley believes that the pricing of the little hatch will put the company ahead in the fast-developing zero-emissions segment.
Manley says that while the vehicle is a world first and full of innovation, it has also been designed for practical requirements.
"Unlike other electric vehicles, the Nissan Leaf is, to all intents, like any other five door, mid-range sedan."
Sovereign plans to use the Leaf as a company pool car, and Mercury Energy has developed a special energy package to ensure that Sovereign's commitment to sustainability translates into real savings.
A purpose-built charging station has been installed at Sovereign's head office at Smales Farm, Takapuna.
The Leaf is regarded as the world's first mass-produced, fully electric, zero emission vehicle and is the culmination of decades of investment and research by Nissan.
"The world is changing like never before," Sovereign chief executive Charles Anderson says. "Sovereign takes the consumption of resources and our impact on the environment seriously and we are pleased to be able to demonstrate our leadership in this area."
"We believe the Leaf and the evolution to fully electric vehicles that maximise the use of New Zealand's renewable energy sources is an important step in technology innovation, and are proud to be the first to purchase this ground-breaking vehicle.
"We are redefining our business practices to ensure we make the most positive impact we can on our environment and community."
Manley says: "In addition to its full functionality, the Leaf boasts a superior recycle rate.
"Not only are the vehicles comprised of a high percentage of recycled plastics, fabrics and other materials, but at the end of their lifespan, 99 per cent of materials will again be recycled to create new Nissan Leaf vehicles or plastic products.
"It is exciting to see Sovereign demonstrating its commitment to sustainability initiatives by being the first company in New Zealand to experience the Nissan Leaf."
In support of electric vehicles Mercury Energy has developed an electric vehicle fuel package for individuals or businesses that buy a Leaf and has extended this offer to Sovereign, giving them a 30 per discount on off-peak electricity recharge costs. Mercury general manager James Munro says that when someone buys a Leaf the company will fit special technology in the customer's home which allows them to measure the power used to charge the car, separating this from household consumption.
"To give you an idea of the savings, let's say you live here at Smales Farm, but work in the CBD," Munro says.
"If you were a Nissan Leaf owner using Mercury's fuel package, your commute to work and back for a full month would cost you around $20.
"This compares to the $120 you would pay if you drove an equivalent-sized petrol-fuelled car.
"Electric cars have the potential to transform the transport sector and Mercury is proud to be getting involved in this exciting space early on.
"We want to learn as much as possible about this technology and how people use it so we can design products and services of real value to future electric-vehicle owners."
Among other awards and recognition, the Nissan Leaf
won both the 2011 World Car of the Year at the New York International Auto Show and the 2011 European Car of the Year.
Manley says: "The Nissan Leaf really does usher in a new era in the global automotive industry.
"Nissan New Zealand is in discussions with several other companies and is confident the Leaf will prove popular with sustainability-conscious companies, organisations and individuals."