Nissan Leaf is set to be the first electric vehicle in South Africa after the conspicuous absence of Optimal Energy at the Johannesburg International Motor Show.

Optimal Energy was expected to be South Africa's first electric vehicle manufacturer but, following its no-show at the auto expo and Nissan's announcement that the Leaf will enter South Africa in 2013, seems to have cleared any doubts as to who is going to herald the EV era in the rainbow nation.

"I am delighted to announce that we are intending to bring the Nissan Leaf to South Africa in 2013, subject to confirmation of government policy on charging infrastructure and customer incentives," said Mike Whitfield, managing director of Nissan South Africa.

"This special car is the world's first mass-market EV, and has already brought affordable, practical and enjoyable zero-emission mobility to thousands of people.

"Although there is more work to do before we can confirm its launch in South Africa, doing so would underline both Nissan's, and this country's, commitment to delivering a more sustainable future for road transport."

The Leaf has a maximum range of 160km with a top speed of 145 km/h.