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Has green lost its sheen? From a BBC bashing to an apparent dip in Government support, the electric vehicle industry has taken blow after blow in the past few weeks. ADRIAN PEARSON asks if the electric car will ever have its day.

IT'S not easy being green, as Nissan is finding out. The electric vehicle should be the saviour of the future motor industry, the key to retaining thousands of North East jobs and usher in a whole new era of environmentally-friendly driving.

But with just two years to go before production of the Nissan Leaf is due to begin in Sunderland, those aspirations have faced a bit of a battering.

Nissan has had a difficult few weeks. First, the Government revealed it would water down the support it had offered to install charging points nationwide. Then motorists showed their lack of enthusiasm in the form of dismal sales figures. And the BBC didn't help either.

Sunday's edition of the controversial but popular motoring show Top Gear saw host Jeremy Clarkson road-test the Leaf with predictably slapstick results.

Predictable because Top Gear has form when it comes to non-petrol-consuming vehicles. The BBC is already being sued by Tesla after a road test of its electric car in 2008 saw the vehicle break down.

Tesla's claim for libel and malicious falsehood came after an episode saw their Roadster race against a Lotus Elite. A petrol-powered Lotus Elite. The race ended with the electric car being pushed to a charging point so it could complete the race.

Continued The Leaf, if anything, came off even worse, in what may prove to be an even bigger public relations nightmare for Nissan. The Wednesday, August 3, 2011 Opinion Analysis Insight Big interview Agenda Issues OPINION p22 | COMMENT p24 | LETTERS p24&25 Has green lost its sheen? From a BBC bashing to an apparent dip in Government support, the electric vehicle industry has taken blow after blow in the past few weeks. ADRIAN PEARSON asks if the electric car will ever have its day Illustration: Sean Collins Tony Henderson Page 26 IT'S not easy being green, as Nissan is finding out. The electric vehicle should be the saviour of the future motor industry, the key to retaining thousands of North East jobs and usher in a whole new era of environmentally-friendly driving. But with just two years to go before production of the Nissan Leaf is due to begin in Sunderland, those aspirations have faced a bit of a battering. Nissan has had a difficult few weeks. First, the Government revealed it would water down the support it had offered to install charging points nationwide. Then motorists showed their lack of enthusiasm in the form of dismal sales figures. And the BBC didn't help either. Sunday's edition of the controversial but popular motoring show Top Gear saw host Jeremy Clarkson road-test the Leaf with predictably slapstick results. Predictable because Top Gear has form when it comes to non-petrol-consuming vehicles. The BBC is already being sued by Tesla after a road test of its electric car in 2008 saw the vehicle break down. Tesla's claim for libel and malicious falsehood came after an episode saw their Roadster race against a Lotus Elite. A petrol-powered Lotus Elite. The race ended with the electric car being pushed to a charging point so it could complete the race. The Leaf, if anything, came off even worse, in what may prove to be an even bigger public relations nightmare for Nissan. The manufacturer Continued 22gramme isn't great, but I think most people realise it is not serious journalism and often stages events for entertainment value. "The EV industry is doing very well generally, there are now some great products coming to the market which will have an impact on reducing emissions and urban air pollution which are major challenges that need to be taken seriously. "The Leaf has a range which is adequate to cover a wide range of uses. Research programmes like the Switch EV trial are helping to inform the distribution of charging points and also expose more people to electric vehicles. "Our own experimental vehicles the CUE-V has been enormously popular with very positive comments from all who have driven them and our eBear utility vehicle is also being very well-received with users reporting savings of thousands of pounds per year in running costs." And while warning against complacency, he suggested there was enough realisation in government of the way the industry was going for it to be wellsupported in future. "It is clear that governments around the world see EVs as a key part of their strategy to improve emissions and reduce pollution. The UK cannot afford to be left behind, especially because of some highly-cynical TV." That view of the BBC's flagship show was backed by Ian McDonald, technical director of Newcastle-based consultancy firm Future Transport Systems. "Top Gear and electric vehicles; it's a bit like mixing oil and water," he said. He explained how the UK does not have an infrastructure problem, playing down suggestions that the Government had withdrawn support. "There was never going to be a charging point on every street corner, there isn't a petrol station there, why would we expect a charging point system to be like that?" Mr McDonald explained how the Plugged in Places scheme had seen the North East lead the way in introducing charging points, and said that other regions were catching up. But he admitted there was still a perception issue to overcome. "What we have to do is convince people not just that they will not have a problem finding a charging point, they also will not need to even worry about that for most of the journeys they make," he said. "Most people travel up to 18 miles in a day. Even if you travel up to 70 miles in a day, the electric vehicle will get you to work, you plug it in either at work or at an on-street charging point and after a four-hour charge you have enough to get home again. It's just about convincing people that for most of the journeys they make they will be surprised at how quickly they get used to electric vehicles." Market research firms say they hope the demand for electric cars will increase as more manufacturers wheel out their models - which will bring down costs - while the European Union tightens rules on carbon emission reduction targets. The hopes were echoed by the Department for Transport. A spokesman said: "Relative to the number of electric cars registered in previous years, the numbers bought over the last six months represent a step change. "We expect uptake to increase as more vehicles come to market - for example, the new Renault Fluence has just become eligible for the grant. "And last week's announcement from Chargemaster on 4,000 charging points across the country is a clear sign of the private sector getting the bit between its teeth to support this new market as well." A Nissan spokeswoman said: "We are confident that fast charging once a day will have no impact on the expected durability. A single fast charge plus a conventional charge per day would give enough to travel almost 200 miles a day, or 72,000 miles a year. "The average motorist does fewer than 10,000 miles a year. An example from our telematics shows a privately-owned Leaf in Tokyo still has 100% charge capacity after 10,000 miles and 326 fast charges. "If something did go wrong, the battery is, of course, warranted for the first five years." I think most people realise Top Gear is not serious journalism and often stages events for entertainment value
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 3, 2011
Words:1242
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