Jhomonsugi, the oldest tree on Yakushima Island, Japan. Photo: Wikimedia CommonsEnlarge Photo
We love cars here at AllCarsElectric, but sometimes there's nothing better than heading out of the cities and away from civilization to enjoy all that nature has to offer.
The last thing we'd want when we got there would be to find our favorite retreat filled with motor vehicles and the fumes they emit breaking the silence and masking the fresh air. Especially if we'd retreated to a secluded little island listed as a United Nations world heritage site.
We're sure Nissan would agree, and that's why the Japanese island of Yakushima in the East China Sea, home to cedar trees of more than 2,000 years old, has been chosen for Nissan's latest test of their 2011 Leaf.
The test is part of a project to develop models to establish clean transportation on islands, which often have delicate ecosystems that can be damaged by regular traffic.
The island of Yakushima has only 14,000 residents, but up to 40,000 tourists visit the island each month in the Summer, many of whom rent cars or bring their own over on ferries.
"Almost all the carbon dioxide in Yakushima is emitted by cars", says Eiji Makino, a Nissan executive working on the project. The island has no industry so vehicles are the main source of pollution.
Almost all the electricity on the island is generated through hydro power from year-round rains and tidal power. This would make electric vehicles such as the 2011 Nissan Leaf almost entirely zero-emissions. The sub-tropical climate is also ideal for battery range, being neither too hot nor too cold.
Not so good for battery range are the island's hills and mountains, so Nissan are using the test to make sure range doesn't decrease too quickly in the hands of tourists. The tests will no doubt be useful to Nissan's success in other hilly markets.
Nissan intends to add the Leaf and future EVs to the island's rental fleet. The move will be aided if their request for electric cars to be able to use bus and taxi lanes is granted.
The program has echoes of Hawaii's plans to be a haven for electric vehicles. The state installed their first electric charging station back at the beginning of the year and two years ago both Better Place and Phoenix Motorcars signed deals to introduce infrastructure and vehicles to the island.
Small islands are ideal test beds for electric cars, because such unpleasant topics as range anxiety are largely irrelevant with the average journey being significantly less than the car's range. A coast-to-coast trip on Hawaii's main island is no more than 112 miles. Yakushima is only 20 miles across. Many modern EVs would offer comfortable range for most journeys.
Nissan is said to be confident of turning tourists into customers. A good rental experience can reflect well on the car and people may be tempted to part with their cash once they return home. This is no doubt part of Nissan's motivation to offer rental firms such as Hertz and Enterprise fleets of Leafs.
Makino adds: "Once people drive the electric vehicle, I'm confident they'll love it".