Renault Electric Kangoo Can Do
|The Renault Kangoo Electric is the only roomy, five-seat, family-sized electric vehicle on the European market. Add to this the optional "range extender" with its "emergency power supply" and you have an excellent vehicle for transporting people and goods over short and medium range daily driving chores.||
This report covers our first five months and 10,000 miles of service.
First, let me describe the range extender. It is a small petrol engine (with catalyst) that produces approximately 10 KW electrical at a fixed number of revolutions. While this doesn't seem like a lot of power, with practice it is possible to drive the Kangoo on the 10kW output of the engine alone, minimizing the power drain on the battery. The tiny nine liter fuel tank is sufficient to take the car 200 km. The driver can select whether or not to use the range extender, a feature not offered any production electric vehicle. However, it's not possible to recharge the vehicle while its standing still using the RE engine.
The big advantage of the RE option is that it reduces the stress of the novice electric vehicle drivers who worry about running out of battery power. Although a warning light will come on when the pack reaches 10 percent SOC (state-of-charge), we've found that it is rarely needed in daily operation where most of our trips are between 60-80 km, well within the range of the battery-only mode. With careful driving, the Kangoo will consume only 25kWh/100km. Digital displays indicate remaining kilometers available at present power levels, as well as showing current consumption in kW/100kM.
That being said, if you choose to run the RE engine all the time, the fuel economy drops to a disappointing 7liters/100km. However, we have found that we need to use it only 10% of the time in which case economy improves to a much more responsible 3liters/100km.
One of the benefits of the RE engine is that it can be used to supplement the Kangoo's electric heat in winter. A nice feature is the ability to program the car to preheat during the winter, as long as it is plugged in. The on board 3.5kW charger enables the car to recharge from 0 to 95% SOC in just 4 hours. The charger also has a 2kW charge mode for smaller 10 amp circuits, however charging takes appreciably longer. [Note: normal household currents in Europe are 220 volts at 50 cycles compared to 120 volts at 60 cycles (Herz) in North America.] Renault has incorporated a "drive-off protection" system that prevents the car from moving while it is still plugged into the charger.
The first surprise after taking delivery from the Renault dealer in St-Louis is the speed of the RH model. The vehicle will do 120km/hr, nearly 20km/hr above the advertised speed in the dealer brochure, in part because of an "overdrive" system that aids acceleration and driving in snow, something we know a lot about here in Switzerland. In fact, it seems there are so many added features in this vehicle, that it appears that Renault technicians inserted more than their sales staff realized.
As would be expected, the Kangoo makes use of regenerative braking (Rekuperation) to help recapture some of the vehicle's kinetic energy, which is used to recharge the air-cooled, NiCad batteries. Despite the deadly heat wave of the summer of the 2003 in Europe, the car performed well. However, the batteries must be periodically watered every 5,000 kilometers. A warning light will come on saying it is time to refill the batteries and remain on until the car is taken into the dealership.
The Kangoo EV drives much like a car with an automatic transmission. Remove your foot from the brake and the car will begin to roll forward. Having driven electric cars for many years, it was a pleasure to find a highly-effective park gear. In most EVs you have to rely on the emergency brake only when parking on a steep inclines. I also enjoy being able to put the car in Neutral to bypass engagement of the regenerative braking system on easy downward gradients.
We very much enjoy the car's many storage bins and shelves. In addition, the rear seat -- which is a 1/3-2/3 split -- can be laid down to accommodate loads up to 100 kilograms. Now we can consider packing our tent and inflatable boat for a camping trip to the Adriatic or perhaps a drive up to Sweden.
The Kangoo offers the same level of safety and security as a conventional car including standard airbags, seatbelts and head restraints for all the passengers (side airbags are option). The vehicle is also offered also as 2 place delivery van. Both versions meet Switzerland's A24 zero emissions code.
While the operational manual for the car is available only in French, it is very detailed and written specifically for the electric version of the Kangoo; it is not simply a amended version of the gasoline car's manual. In order to save weight and space, Renault has replaced the spare tire with a spray can of emergency inflation sealant.
The Kangoo easily offers us the best value for everyday driving use. While we do use grid power to recharge the Kangoo at night, during the day our apartment building's solar panels [see photo album links at beginning of article], we are very close to producing no CO2 at all. Our new office building, which we call WATTWERK, will enable us to meet all our electric power needs and charge the Kangoo, making us completely CO2 neutral. That will be a very good feeling.
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