Nissan's whisky-powered Leaf11 | 08 | 2011

    A CAR POWERED BY WHISKY; don't laugh. On the remote Hebridean island of Islay that's essentially what business owner, Mark Reynier, has in the shape of his all-electric Nissan Leaf.

    Now, ok, don't get any idea that all Mark — who owns the award-winning 130-year old Bruichladdich whisky distillery — does is pour bottles of whisky into the fuel tank of his Leaf. That would be rather silly. But the electricity which does power the Nissan is produced directly from the watery waste product left over after distilling.

    "It was frustrating to be making such strides in being self-sufficient, when my car still needed the most expensive diesel in the UK from the mainland. The arrival of the Leaf has allowed me to be as truly self-sufficient as possible."

    Mark has long strived to become entirely self-sufficient on Islay and as part of the process he established a pioneering Biowayste system allowing the distillery to generate its own electricity by using the waste products from the distilling process.

    Earlier this year, he started using the system, in which electricity is generated by biogas formed by a process called anaerobic digestion.

    Now Mark has taken delivery of his Nissan Leaf meaning he can not only dump his previous diesel car, but he can also drive completely carbon-free, charging his car using the electricity produced by the distillery.

    Watch our video of the Nissan Leaf in Islay

    And just for good measure, to celebrate the role played by the Leaf in his bid to become self-sufficient, Nissan and Bruichladdich have produced a limited run of bespoke, Leaf-labelled organic whisky.

    “The Leaf is fantastic to drive," Mark explained. "It was frustrating to be making such strides in being self-sufficient, when my car still needed the most expensive diesel in the UK from the mainland. The arrival of the Leaf has allowed me to be as truly self-sufficient as possible.”

    The Bruichladdich whisky distillery has long been a source of innovation. Built in 1881 by three pioneering brothers, its arrival first brought electricity to the 230 square-mile island. Its ingenious Victorian design was so ahead of its time, the same machinery is still used to this day to make whisky.

    Today, the distillery’s waste streams are all ploughed back into powering and producing for the business.

    Draff (spent barley) is taken by local island farmers to feed cows, whose slurry is spread on fields growing the distillery’s barley.

    First Nissan Leaf on the Outer Hebrides

    Meanwhile pot ale, the watery waste product left over after distilling, is converted into biogas which powers a generator to produce electricity for the distillery. During the process, called anaerobic digestion, bespoke microbes digest the “pot ale” to produce large quantities of high-quality biogas.

    “We are not eco-warriors," Mark smiled, "but we wanted to see how we could do our part. Most schemes along these lines are hare-brained and have little commercial merit, but this one does. Though the technology has existed since 1860, only now is it economically viable on this small scale.

    “With the addition of the Leaf, we’re happy in the knowledge that we’re doing everything we can, whether growing barley here on the island, organically and biodynamically, to be environmentally sympathetic both in our work and home life.”

    Bruichladdich is the only producer of organic whisky on Islay, which is home to no fewer than eight malt whisky distilleries, and recently distilled the first ever biodynamic whisky.

    And Mark's decision to opt for the Leaf — which develops 80kW of power and 280Nm of torque from its AC engine, enough for a maximum speed of 90mph — was praised by James Douglas, Nissan’s corporate sales director.

    Scots pioneer turns a new Leaf

    “Mr Reynier’s case goes to prove that sustainable motoring is a very realistic proposition," he said. "He is one of the many businessmen discovering that the Nissan Leaf can bring very real financial benefits to his company.”

    The Leaf has a range of up t0 110 miles between charges, and the family hatchback is powered by an in-house developed compact electric motor and inverter in the front of the car which drives the front wheels.

    The first all-electric vehicle to be awarded the highest five star safety rating by the independent EuroNCAP organisation, the Nissan Leaf also comes fully equipped with features such as climate control, satellite navigation, rear-view parking camera, a quick charge socket and innovative smart-phone connectivity.

    In a world where the current crop of electric vehicles appear to get nothing but bad press, it's reassuring to report on a partnership where the combination of EV and location — allied to the type and style of driving — work in perfect harmony.

    See more photos of Mark and his Nissan Leaf on Islay.

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    Jim McGill

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