County Durham-based solar panel manufacturer Cleaner Air Solutions has become the first company in the region to purchase a fleet of Nissan Leaf electric cars. Employees will now drive to work safe in the knowledge that they are not adding to the country’s carbon boot print.

Cleaner Air Solutions, based in Meadowfield, has been handed five sets of keys to the first Nissan Leaf vehicles to arrive in the North-East, at the Benfield Motor Group dealership, located in Newcastle. The company will make huge savings on fuel costs, as the cars will run on solar power generated by Cleaner Air Solution’s Durham office solar array. This means that the fuel will actually be completely free of charge.

From 2013, the Leaf will be manufactured at Nissan’s Sunderland-based plant; until then, the cars currently on sale in the UK will be shipped from Japan. This will cause some disruption to the supply.

Kevin Fitzpatrick, Nissan Vice President for Manufacturing in the UK has confirmed that the company expects some disruption to Leaf supplies following the earthquake and ensuing tsunami which hit Japan at the beginning of March.

“It has had a terrible impact on the people and businesses of Japan but they are trying to get back to normal” said Fitzpatrick. “Inevitably there will be a level of disruption in the medium term but we dont know what that will be at the moment. Until plants, such as the one here in the North-East come on line, supply over the next two years will be limited.”

Nigel McMinn, Managing Director of Benfield, which is the only North-East car dealer selling the Leaf said, “In a few weeks we could be telling customers that it will be the end of this year or even next year before you can get your hands on one. The Leaf is selling fast because the economics of the thing are so compelling. For someone doing 12,000 miles a year the fuel saving is about £150 per month.”