By Mohammad Ghazal

AMMAN – Starting next year, several electric cars will be introduced to public agency fleets as part of the country’s commitment to adopt eco-friendly practices, the government said on Wednesday.

The Nissan LEAF, manufactured by Nissan Motor Co., Lt., will be introduced in the public sector in 2011 to help the Kingdom reduce carbon dioxide emissions, preserve the environment and cut expenditures on fuel, Minister of Environment Hazem Malhas said in a press conference yesterday to announce the measure.

“I believe that we have an obligation to future generations to take the necessary actions towards a greener and better world,” Malhas said, noting that the cars will be exempted from custom fees.

Under a memorandum of understanding signed yesterday in the presence of Prime Minister Samir Rifai, Jordan and Nissan will work to promote electric vehicles as an energy-saving alternative to help Jordan achieve energy independence and protect the environment.

Under the agreement, Jordan will consider the purchase of up to 300 Nissan LEAFs for public agencies, according to the Ministry of Environment.

“The car will be first introduced to the Greater Amman Municipality fleet and then to the Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority to be used at tourism sites such as Petra and Wadi Rum,” the minister added.

During yesterday’s press conference, Nissan Corporate Vice President Gilles Normand stressed that the Nissan LEAF is the “world’s first affordable, 100 per cent electric, zero-emissions vehicle”.

The vehicle’s motor produces up to 80 kilowatts and 280Nm of torque, enough for a maximum speed of 140 kilometres per hour. The electric motor is powered by a laminated lithium-ion battery with a power output of more than 90 kilowatts, according to Normand.

A full charge delivers a range of 160 kilometres, which meets the daily driving demands of most customers, an environment ministry stated. Global research indicates that the average daily mileage for 80 per cent of the world’s population is under 100 kilometres, according to the ministry.

Normand, who said Jordan will become the first Arab state to introduce electric cars, added that the vehicle will be launched in Japan and the US in December.

The memo between the government and Nissan also focuses on providing incentives and infrastructure to encourage an electric vehicle mass market in the Kingdom. Under the agreement, a working group was formed to explore renewable energy potentials for electric vehicles, such as the use of solar energy for battery charging.

Also as part of the agreement, solar charging stations will be installed at specific locations across the country, the minister said. According to Normand, a “quick charge” at designated stations takes half-an-hour, while recharging from traditional power outlets takes eight hours. The vehicle batteries have a five-year lifespan, according to Nissan.