Nissan has kicked off what could be the greenest sponsorship deal in British sport by delivering 11 examples of its popular all-electric car, the LEAF, to the country’s most environmentally-friendly football team, Forest Green Rovers.
The deal, which sees Nissan become Rovers’ official car supplier, marks another step towards total sustainability for the forward-thinking Gloucestershire club, which has installed solar panels around its New Lawn stadium, uses a rainwater irrigation system to maintain the pitch and even axed meat from its matchday menu.
The zero-emission cars will be used by the Conference club’s players and manager David Hockaday. They used to clock up almost 400,000 miles a year between them – generating 125,000 kg of CO2 – just travelling to and from training sessions.
It is hoped the new fleet of LEAFs will help the Nailsworth club meet its target of cutting those carbon emissions by 80 per cent and get the club’s ever-growing fanbase of environmentally-conscious football lovers turned on to the merits of green transport. The cars will be charged using renewable energy and the rapid charger recently installed in the club car park can also be used by the fans.
Club Chairman, Dale Vince, owner and founder of green energy company Ecotricity, said: “This arrangement gives us the chance to push the club forward in terms of its approach to transport.
“Travel is one of the biggest environmental impacts in football, with teams and fans across the country covering millions miles every season by car and coach. We can no longer ignore the issue.
“We’ve had great success implementing a new ethos at the club by harvesting rainwater, changing the menu and installing solar panels but until now we’ve not been able to do all we’d like when it comes to transport. The LEAF changes all that.
“We get to show everyone what electric cars are really like, challenge their misconceptions and give them greater exposure.”
He added: “I’ve been driving one for six months now and the fact it’s electric has never been any hassle whatsoever. In fact, it’s a brilliant car to drive – great fun and really nippy.
“Our fans have been really receptive to all the changes we’ve made at the club and I have no doubt this deal will lead many of them to look at electric vehicles in a whole new light.”
Club Manager, David Hockaday, was among the first to take delivery of his new LEAF, and has loved every moment spent behind the wheel so far.
He said: “Since joining the club I’ve really bought in to the ethos here to the point where I said to Dale that if we were looking at cars, I’d be really keen on an electric one.
“I know it’s not the sort of car people would normally think of a footballer driving and it’s not the sort of car I’d have thought about previously but I’ve been totally won over.
“It’s a good looking car, it’s great to drive and the low running costs make it a no brainer.”
He added: “All the lads have been really excited about getting the cars and talking about them at training which tells you a lot about how cool having an electric car is at the moment.”
A spacious and generously equipped family hatchback, the LEAF was named World and European Car of the Year in 2011 and is the world’s bestselling 100% electric car.
Capable of travelling up to 109 miles on a single charge, which could cost as little as £2.03 on an overnight electricity tariff, the LEAF’s battery-powered motor means it’s completely exempt from road tax and the London Congestion Charge.
Meanwhile, charging a LEAF to 80% can take less than 30 minutes using a rapid charger – a network of which are being installed at service stations across the UK in partnership with Ecotricity. The first of those chargers are now up and running at South Mimms, Oxford and Hopwood Park services. A rapid charger has also been installed in the car park at New Lawn.
Paul O’Neill, Head of Electric Vehicles at Nissan GB, said: “Working with Dale and Ecotricity to install the rapid chargers we were very interested to hear about the work being done at Forest Green Rovers and were keen to help.
“The players were already encouraged to car share in order to reduce the club’s emissions and the next step was to see how a Nissan LEAF could fit in to their daily commute to training and home games.
“The cars have all now been delivered and the players are absolutely loving them and the club’s already noticing a big difference to its fuel bills.”