Live and let Leaf

The author poses after driving a Nissan Leaf in Japan in 2017. — PHOTO FROM ANGEL RIVERO

THE LONG-AWAITED Nissan Leaf has finally arrived in the Philippines — and it’s high time that the world’s best-selling, mass-produced electric vehicle got here for the Filipino public to experience. Being a five-door compact hatchback, it’s small in size but big on innovation. And that’s because — in case you didn’t realize it — Nissan has always been at the forefront of affordable production electric vehicles in the world. And the Nissan Leaf is the icon of the brand’s precious Intelligent Mobility Suite.

Nissan Intelligent Mobility expresses the Japanese company’s vision to transform the way people drive and live. I’ve witnessed several milestones in its evolution, as I’ve been able to join Nissan’s contingent to every Tokyo Motor Show since 2015.

Basically, Nissan likes to break down its Intelligent Mobility concept into three major areas, namely: Intelligent Power, Intelligent Driving and Intelligent Integration. Intelligent Power includes its zero-emission electric vehicles and its e-Power products; while Intelligent Driving refers to the suite of technologies under ProPilot, such as ProPilot Park (a self-parking feature) and emergency braking. Meanwhile, Intelligent Integration refers to what Nissan likes to call “SAM” or Seamless Autonomous Mobility.

The latest Nissan Leaf is a torchbearer of Intelligent Mobility as it is an attractive, fully electric vehicle armed with a power output of 110kW and 320Nm of torque; a roomy, high-tech interior; a driving range that can go up to the 300km to 400km territory depending on road conditions and driving style; and futuristic features such as: ProPilot Park and Nissan’s proprietary e-pedal.

The e-pedal feature allows drivers to start, accelerate, decelerate, stop, and hold the car with the use of the accelerator pedal alone (yes, without using the brake pedal). And yes, it incorporates an auto-hold function. It represents an entirely new driving experience — allowing people to move around with greater confidence, exhilaration, and connection with the rest of the world. Although I admit that I found the feeling quite weird at first — not having to use an actual brake pedal reminded me of the times I would drive bump cars as a child — but it only takes some getting used to. Frankly, the Japanese market absolutely loved the feature when it first came out.

Moreover, the Nissan Leaf has always showcased the world’s first bi-directional charging capabilities. This means that owners can use the electric charge in their car to power their home or to simply return electricity to the grid. Therefore, the electric vehicle can also be tapped for some backup power during a blackout, or for use as a large, home storage device for captured renewable energy (in green homes). Furthermore, as the Leaf may also be exploited for some “energy balancing” within buildings and grids. Owners can choose to charge and store energy while electricity is cheap during off-peak hours, and then later use the car as a generator to utilize that stored energy once the more expensive grid rates take effect during peak hours. This is of course because, unlike in the Philippines, countries like Japan have different electricity rates depending on the time of the day (peak vs off-peak rates).

But having said that, imagine this: The Nissan Leaf could potentially help out with supplying energy during power outages when there are disasters.

The new Leaf is sold in over 60 markets around the world, and has already undergone rigorous flood tests, cold tests and heat tests to endure varying environments. It also performed very well in aerodynamic tests and other dynamic assessments, making it a high-output vehicle that is capable of being fully connected and fully integrated with its ecosystem.

In 2019, the Nissan Leaf was named the Canadian Green Car of the Year by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada at the Vancouver International Auto Show. It also became Norway’s best-selling car overall after it was introduced in 2019. It is also a top-selling EV in the whole of Europe. Now that it is in the Philippines, I wonder how the country will embrace it.

For those who are worried about our atrocious Metro Manila traffic, the good news is that with electric vehicles, very little energy is used when at a standstill (say, only the minimum amount required to run the air-conditioning and electronics, etc.), so it shouldn’t be alarming to imagine driving an EV in heavy congestion.

Furthermore, fewer moving parts mean fewer parts to replace over time. And after over 400,000 units sold globally (and these units are usually being charged through conventional wall sockets), there have so far been zero reported incidents concerning any harm or threats to safety. The use of electric vehicles also reduces air pollution in congested city centers (such as Manila) and promotes renewable energy integration into that society.

There is also good news that Nissan has begun to develop systems to reuse and recycle old EV batteries. A Nissan affiliate called 4R Energy opened a plant in the town of Namie, Futaba District, within the Fukushima Prefecture of Japan, to focus specifically on the reuse of lithium-ion batteries from electric vehicles.

At the end of the day, it appears that in environmentally progressive countries such as Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands, government incentives for EVs were always crucial for their success in their respective markets. Will the Philippines follow suit to match this kind of enthusiasm? Heck, our Asian neighbors such as Malaysia, Korea, and Thailand have already been way ahead of us in terms of government policy. Let’s cross our fingers and hope for the best.

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