Mayor Test-drives Electric Cars for Capital

16 June 2010

The Renault-Nissan Alliance and Wellington City Council have formed a partnership to explore the development of a zero-emission vehicles programme.

The two organisations signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Friday in Japan under which a working team of representatives from the City Council and Nissan will identify potential areas of cooperation in promoting the use of zero emission vehicles in Wellington.

The memorandum was signed after Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast took a test drive of the Nissan LEAF electric vehicle at the company's Oppama Proving Ground near Tokyo.

Nissan Motor Company's Corporate Vice President (Zero Emissions Business Unit), Mr Hideaki Watanabe, signed on behalf of the motor giant.

"Nissan is proud to partner with the Wellington City Council through the signing of this MOU," said John Manley, Nissan New Zealand's Managing Director.

"Technology for zero-emissions mobility is a reality and we are prepared to proactively explore ways to bring this technology to New Zealand with collaboration from the Wellington administration.

"Our company is leading the world in the design and production of a battery-powered family-sized car and we aim to have this vehicle in Wellington by mid 2011 via the proposed pilot programme. The announcement of the signing of the MOU brings that reality closer," Manley continued. "The Nissan organisation recognises the importance of sustainability by limiting CO2 emissions and we are ready and able to partner public authorities in pursuing that role.

"Wellington city is looking at the benefits of introducing and expanding electric vehicle technology," said Mayor Prendergast.

"This MOU formalises discussions with the Nissan Motor Company, one of the global leaders in the development of fully electric vehicles, and demonstrates our commitment to supporting electric vehicle technologies."

The Renault-Nissan Alliance has formed partnerships with more than 60 governments, cities and other organizations around the world, including Japan, USA, Europe, Asia and Australia, to advance the deployment of EVs worldwide.

Mayor Prendergast was the first elected official to test-drive the Nissan LEAF. Her verdict? "I can't wait for these fantastic cars to hit the streets of Wellington.

"They have great performance, they're easy to drive and they'll make short work of our hills. Nissan's efforts to build an affordable electric vehicle is great news for Wellington."

Last month Wellington was named fifth in a ranking of the world's top eco-cities in the annual Mercer quality of life survey. Mayor Prendergast said: "The arrival of a small fleet of these cars in Wellington early next year should help push us closer to the top."

Mayor Prendergast said her one-day visit to Japan for the meeting with Nissan is about building momentum behind Wellington's new climate-change action plan and electric vehicle initiative. "Relationships and opportunities are needed to make zero-emission vehicles a reality in Wellington," she said.

The visit was organised as a side-trip from the civic delegation of Wellington business leaders to China for the Shanghai Expo and other meetings.

Mayor Prendergast said the vehicles would be appropriately branded and would quickly become a familiar sight on Wellington's streets. "We hope they will add to the 'wow' factor during next year's Rugby World Cup when fans and media from around the world will see the cars."

While details about who will get to drive the vehicles are still under discussion, the Council hopes to see the cars based in prominent places around the city and at tourist entry points like Wellington Airport, the InterIslander ferry terminal and cruise ship berths.

The cars, capable of running for 160 kilometres on one charge, would be recharged at a number of 'stations' in city streets.

Wellington City Council has included $50,000 for the project in the 2010/11 draft Annual Plan. The funding is to be used to install charging facilities, parking, signage and for the lease of cars.  The Council is working with key parties, including Meridian Energy, in Wellington to increase the scale of the project.

The use of electric vehicles is being promoted by the Council as a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Mayor Prendergast said the introduction of electric vehicles fits perfectly with the Council's aim for Wellington to be seen as a 'green capital'. "The use of electric vehicles would clearly help reduce air pollution and make use of our abundant renewable energy resources."