Nissan says its electric car has become the first to break 400,000 in sales

  • The model was the bestselling electric vehicle in Europe last year, according to Nissan.
  • Overall, 408,000 plug-in vehicle units were sold across Europe in 2018, according to analysis from EV-Volumes
Opening Day Of The 88th Geneva International Motor Show
Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Japanese car giant Nissan says its compact hatchback called Leaf has become the first electric car to exceed 400,000 in sales.

In an announcement Thursday, the business said the landmark figure had solidified the Leaf's "leading role in the global shift toward more sustainable mobility."

Since its launch in 2010, owners of the vehicle have, in total, driven over 10 billion kilometers. Nissan added that the number of Leaf cars sold since its launch was enough to have saved 3.8 million barrels of oil annually.

The model was the bestselling electric vehicle in Europe last year, Nissan said. In the U.K., the Leaf's newest version has a recommended retail price starting at £27,995 ($36,576).

Overall, 408,000 plug-in vehicle units were sold across Europe in 2018, according to analysis from EV-Volumes. In 2017, there were more than 3 million electric and plug-in hybrid cars on the planet's roads, according to the International Energy Agency's (IEA) Global Electric Vehicles Outlook. This represents an increase of 54 percent compared to 2016.

Almost 580,000 electric cars were sold in China in 2017, according to the IEA, while around 280,000 were sold in the U.S.

While electric vehicles are becoming the car of choice for an increasing number of drivers, they nevertheless face challenges, not least when it comes to perceptions surrounding range and charging infrastructure.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Alternative Fuels Data Center, electric vehicles (EVs) generally have, at present, a shorter range "per charge" than conventional vehicles with a tank of gas. Driving conditions and driving habits can influence both the efficiency and range of EVs, the DOE says.

One of the current issues for EVs is ensuring there are enough charging stations for longer journeys to be completed. At present, for the U.S. as a whole, there are just under 21,000 public, Level 2 electric vehicle charging station locations. Level 2 refers to equipment that uses a 240 volt, alternating current plug.

Efforts are being made to remedy this, however, and a number of major businesses are investing in charging infrastructure. In January, for example, Volvo Group Venture Capital, a subsidiary of the Volvo Group, invested in a company that specializes in the "high power wireless charging of electric vehicles."

The wireless charging business, called Momentum Dynamics, is based in Pennsylvania. It is developing and commercializing "high power inductive charging for the automotive and transportation industries."

Also on Thursday, the City of Edinburgh's Transport and Environment Committee granted approval for the installation of electric car-charging infrastructure in the Scottish capital.

The plan would see the introduction of 66 on-street charging points spread across 14 hubs, authorities said in a statement.

The City of Edinburgh Council added that rapid, fast and slow chargers would be installed around the city, with equipment set to be placed on roads instead of pavements. Installation is due to take place between January and December 2020.

"We've seen an exponential rise in the popularity of electric vehicles over the last few years, and we want to see this continue," Lesley Macinnes, transport and environment convener, said in a statement.

"Encouraging drivers to choose environmentally friendly modes of transport over diesel or petrol cars will have a real impact on air quality so it's essential that we provide the infrastructure to allow this," Macinnes added.

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