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World Car of the Year: Nissan Leaf

The Nissan Leaf is the 2011 World Car of the Year. It was chosen from an initial entry list of 39 new vehicles from all over the world; then a shortlist of 10; then three finalists: the Nissan Leaf, the Audi A8 and the BMW 5 Series.

This comes as Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte announced the Electric Vehicle grant scheme was at last to be opened. All vehicles with CO2 emissions of less than 75g CO2 per km will be eligible for a purchase subsidy of up to €5,000. Qualifying vehicles sold after January 1, 2011 are eligible for the grant, and a total of €5m has been allocated for this purpose.

The aim is to have 10 per cent of vehicles (approximately 220,000) powered or part-powered by electricity from the grid by 2020.

This scheme will encourage these early adopters and allow Ireland to quickly benefit from this technology while enhancing our energy independence and reducing transport emissions.

To be eligible for the overall World Car award, the candidates must have become available for sale on at least two continents during the period beginning January 1, 2010 and ending May 30, 2011.

Jurors said that: "The Leaf is the gateway to a brave new electric world from Nissan. This five-seater, five-door hatchback is the world's first, purpose-built, mass-produced electric car.

Dropped on to a unique platform and body, the Leaf's lithium-ion battery modules and electric motor generate 108hp and 206 lb ft of torque, propelling the hatch from zero to 100kph in 11.5 seconds.

Nissan says it has a range of more than 160kph on a full charge, takes around eight hours to recharge using a 220-240V power supply and produces zero tailpipe emissions.

Vehicles were selected and voted on by an international jury panel comprised of 66 top-level automotive journalists from 24 countries.

The Nissan Leaf succeeded the 2010 winner of the World Car of the Year award, the Volkswagen Polo.

Meanwhile, the Ferrari 458 Italia was named as 2011 World Performance Car, beating off competition from the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG and the Porsche 911 Turbo.

The Ferrari 458 Italia succeeded the 2010 winner of the World Performance Car, the Audi R8 V10.

The Aston Martin Rapide took the accolade for 2011 World Car Design of the Year and the Chevrolet Volt was voted 2011 World Green Car.

Sunday Independent