PRETORIA, South Africa - Nissan has announced a three-year research project with electricity utility Eskom on Tuesday that will include testing the Leaf, the automaker’s flagship electric vehicle.The project is ahead of Nissan SA’s plans to formally launch the Leaf during September 2013, becoming the first fully electric vehicle (EV) available in the country. GETTING READYIt follows a pilot programme to promote public awareness with the department of environmental affairs (DEA), and another with the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) aimed to create a commercially viable infrastructure for EVs.The collaboration was made by the automaker’s sales, marketing and aftersales director Johan Kleynhans at a vehicle handover ceremony of 10 Leafs to Eskom. Avis Fleet Services (AFS) will manage the vehicles on Eskom’s behalf.Kleynhans said: “I’m delighted to be handing over these vehicles for this research project. The outcome of which will have long -term implications for the development of the entire EV industry.”Eskom’s manager, research, testing and development GM Barry MacColl said: “Eskom has been doing EV research for several years with the intention of understanding the impact of EVs on our grid.“And we also want to understand usage patterns and charging characteristics of the cars themselves in order to design grid solutions and tariffs for e-mobility.”NEW APPROACHMacColl said that while South Africa uses fossil-based fuels for many of its energy processes, a new approach was in the sights of all concerned. “E-mobility is a way of moving people around in a more effective and cleaner fashion which is critical for the economy.“Eskom is intent upon finding technology options suitable for implementation within the energy body,” he added.Kleynhans acknowledged that a full-on launch of EVs in the local market is subject to finalisation of government legislation, but he reiterated Nissan’s intent to launch the vehicle for sale before the year-end.“We are collaborating with all concerned in the e-mobility programme by providing our hands-on experience with EVs and the infrastructure required,” said Kleynhans.The award-winning Leaf is the world’s first viable, mass market electric vehicle and has already been rolled out in Japan, US and Europe, with over 60 000 models sold globally.