MEDIA REVIEWS is a compilation of reviews and write-ups of test drives of various e-drive vehicles by the different authors and media. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of EV World. Click the article title to expand the story.
From Dublin to Galway and Back By Electric Car
Eddie Cunningham chronicles his drive across Ireland in Renault's ZOE electric car, but it wasn't driving the car that occupied his mind, but all the children playing too close to the road.
Independent/Ireland 18 Aug 2014
I wanted to see what it would be like to drive an electric car from Dublin to Galway - and back. I wanted to experience the coast-to-coast loop on my own, in the real world of charging and range anxiety. So I drove Renault's new ZOE 5dr on an eventful journey. Here's my 'logged' account.
3.46pm Wednesday. Fully charged, 130km in the batteries. Off we go. I'm doing 105kmh on the M50 and it's down to 110km remaining. I'm anxious as I dip under 100km.
Applegreen, Enfield: 65km. I'm a nervous wreck, fumbling cables, dropping car fob. Range anxiety with 65km in the battery? Yes. Quick charger (30mins) doesn't work for me.
Ring helpline. Nice man Finbarr sorts me. Something to do with different sockets. (ZOE has Chameleon charger which makes it compatible with all power levels up to 43kW). I opt for one-hour charge instead. Success. She's chargin' like the Light Brigade.
Deserve cup of tea and a bun. Return. Look around. No coat hooks on internal handles. Don't like reflection of dash ventilation vents on windscreen. Lovely bright interior, white-on-brown/grey. The central display is nearly idiot proof and clear. What would I do if it was raining? Suggestion ESB: cover these charge points. Topaz, Kilbeggan next. Don't drive as fast. Electric cars should be toll free (€2.90).
Great: three types of charger in Kilbeggan. Ring helpline again. Cormac (twice) sorts me out. You have to wave this access card at a screen (same in Enfield). Doesn't always work. Sorted. Think ahead. Ring Dolan's in Ballinasloe (ecars app excellent for showing charge points along the route). Will I have enough charge to get there? They are helpful and cheery. Give me exact instructions.
Sat Nav thinks Ballinasloe is a city. I'm four hours on the road. I'd do Galway and back in that. Great auld charge at Dolan's - in 30 mins. Getting the hang of this. Still worried if I'll have enough to get me to Barna. Just in case, there's Oranmore. I don't need it.
With speed set at 86kmh on motorway, I'm going to make it. Sat Nav wants to take me to a driveway on Barna Road. Silly yoke. Arrive at The Twelve Hotel. I set up overnight charge in seconds (getting good at this) at my reserved slot (thanks). It's 8pm. I'm six hours on the go and have driven 218.3km.
Warmest of welcomes and dinner awaits. Time for me to recharge. Mmmmm... homemade treacle bread, lamb, salted caramel ice-cream and gorgeous chocolatey stuff. Pot of tea. That'll keep me going. No range anxiety there.
Next morning. Hearty breakfast. The batteries are full too (monitor says 134km). Take old road (fed-up paying tolls). Ballinasloe. Card won't work. Helpline. Nice man remotely 'swipes' the machine. She's charging. It's lunch time. People are watching. I head for the restaurant.
People gather around ZOE (we're on first-name terms now). Great, quick charge: 138km. I'm calculating like mad. If I skip Kilbeggan (and tea in Eileen's), I should have 32km to spare. Worth a go. I go slower, turn down the fan. Save power. Gap widens to 35km. It might take 15 mins longer but I'm saving time by not stopping. Aha! Surge of confidence. Why was I worrying? Silly me; 52km to spare at Enfield.
It's 3.44pm. I just wait for 60km top-up. Total 112km. Half way back I quit Eco mode. I do 100kmh+ for the first time since yesterday. Left The Twelve at 11.35am; arrive Sandyford 5pm. Total coast-to-coast loop time: 11 hours 39 minutes. Oh dear! But yes, I would do it again (and quicker). I'd enjoy it more too.
Different around the city. I noticed how little power it used in Galway city traffic. No real urban range anxiety. When I slowed or braked, energy flowed back to boost the battery.
I got to like ZOE a lot. Small, sturdy, grand to drive, fine boot, great room in the back seats. I like the look and feel of it; small, fresh, minimalist, modern. I learned much about electric-car driving and myself - both have drawbacks. Of course, no one has the sort of time I devoted. Of course, it's an urban vehicle with limited relevance now. But maybe my little odyssey showed what could be possible one day? You never know.
What's the charge? The facts and figures
ESB estimate my total trip cost €15.26 in electricity. I reckon diesel would cost €68. Average electric car power costs 1.5c/km (night charge), 3c/km (day). Petrol/diesel average at 8.4c/km to 10.5c/km. No charge at public points until 'sometime next year'.
Renault claim max 210km range. Realistically: 130km/150km in urban/rural mix. Electric motor: 88bhp.
'Range OptimiZEr' mixes regenerative braking, heat pump, Michelin EnergyTM E-V tyres. Charge: 30 minutes to nine hours, depending on outlet. Charges to 80pc capacity in an hour or so. The lower the battery, the quicker it re-charges. You hire the battery (€49/month).
Multimedia system, Renault R-Link, 7in display, steering wheel remote controls, voice recognition. Price: from €17,490 (after VRT rebate, SEAI grant).
My side of the road
NEVER have I had so many people talking to me about a terror that grips them when they are driving.
It comes every time they see young children on footpaths or near roads, without anyone holding onto them.
I've seen instances of it these past few weeks where, only a few metres from passing cars, toddlers were left to their own devices. Mothers or minders were on their phones or distracted by others in their care.
The frightening thing is that it only takes a second for a child to 'bolt'. Anything can happen after that.
I get the shivers even thinking about it.
To be honest I'm reluctant to even write about it.
But I am appalled at how insensitive to the dangers some people, in positions of responsibility, appear to be. And there is no more responsible a position than minding children in public places.
If there was a slogan I could use, it would be: "Hold onto your children."
Test Drive: Renault ZOE Electric Car
Dublin-based Campbell Spray finds much to fault in his review of The ZOE electric car from Renault from the fact you have to rent the battery to it driver visibility issues.
Independent/Ireland 22 Jul 2014
This column does get the whole electric car thing, in principle anyway. In fact, I am extremely well set up for it. I live very near the city centre, my car always stays in the garage at the back of the house where a special charging point was installed by the ESB a few years back and, during the week at least, my journeys are all very urban.
There have been problems with range anxiety when I have tested electric cars before; there are bitter memories of trawling West Dublin for a working quick-charge point, before sitting in the middle of the Nissan HQ car park on a Sunday afternoon getting current into the Leaf, when I should have been driving my partner to work.
The infrastructure has been getting considerably better and more EVs are being sold, which has brought its own problems. A writer in the Irish Times last Monday tells of pulling into a petrol station in Gorey to recharge her car, only to find two other electric cars at the charging point before her. Ciara O'Brien writes: "If you pull up to a petrol or diesel pump and there's a queue, it will move fast. With electric charging points, there is no such certainty. They could be there for 20 minutes, an hour, longer. You just don't know."
Anyway, I came to the five-door Renault Zoe at the beginning of this month with a fairly open mind. I was going to plan our Sunday-afternoon outing better; we have plenty of stuff to be anxious about without worrying over getting stuck up the Dublin mountains without any power.
In this regard, motorway driving would be kept at a minimum and we would aim to get a range boost from the regenerative power of the braking system as we came down from the hills. Renault have put considerable effort into electric vehicles, although the hype and predictions given by a previous MD in Ireland a few years back have proved to be so ridiculous.
Already Renault have launched the well-regarded electric Kangoo van, the odd bike/car Twizy and an electric version of the rather old-fashioned Fluence saloon. The Zoe, based largely on the Clio platform and aiming for the small family hatchback market was a much more mainstream project.
At first sight, it does well. Standing tall, with an attractive enough profile with hidden rear-door handles, two comfortable front seats, easily accessed; a large luggage area, clear displays and the potential to do about 130km on a full charge - this will take most of the night at home but can be boosted quickly at fast-charging stations. It's very easy to drive; initial speed picks up quickly and, if you want to do battery-draining high speeds on the motorway, it won't disappoint.
Yet, there are some very serious black marks against it and that's before the expected very high depreciation and the cost of battery rental each month, which isn't nice - and apparently Renault can remotely disable the car if you don't pay up. Go past the supportive front seats and real cheapness is apparent in the Zoe - around the doors, the industrial rear seat that doesn't split and lacks a central headrest, the boot is difficult to close for even an average-size woman and there is general feeling that quality has been sacrificed for lightness. However, the worst thing for me was the awful reflections on the windscreen which seriously impede your visibility and give real problems with glare. This, together with the nasty blindspots caused by the sweeping A-pillars, does not make for happy driving.
The British magazine Autocar says the Zoe is a "talented, easy-driving, short-range car" however, it prefixes this with "especially if it's a second or third car". Gosh, there's definitely a different economy across the water.
I feel the whole Zoe concept relies on it being a electric car than a vehicle I would happily own or, more importantly, let my family drive. OK, it has got a very good rating for crash safety, but that is not the same as being a safe car to drive.
The Zoe costs €19,290 inclusive of VRT relief and energy grant. There are a lot better small petrol and diesel cars out there for that money that will cost you less in the long run and don't have some of the faults that makes the Zoe unpleasant to drive.
French Electric Car Trials Demonstrate EV Viability
Test drivers covered more than 350,000 km during nearly two year trials outside of Paris, discovering with training, their driving range improved as much as 22 percent.
Daily Fusion 14 Jul 2013
Between March 2011 and December 2012, 65 Renault-Nissan electric vehicles were driven in the Seine Aval (France) area and 130 charging stations were installed as a part of SAVE (Seine Aval Véhicules Électriques), France’s biggest ever trial of all-electric mobility, made possible by a partnership between eight public and private (Renault-Nissan Alliance, EDF, Schneider Electric, Total) entities. This week the SAVE project participants met at the Renault production site in Flins to present a review of the project and the outlook for the future.
The SAVE trial involved many players, who thus became pioneers in electric mobility: municipalities (Les Mureaux, Mantes la Jolie and Poissy) and companies (Carrefour, Total, Leclerc, Vinci Park, Intermarché) deployed charging infrastructure available to the public; 40 participants (companies, municipalities and consumers) acquired charging stations and electric vehicles. More than 150 drivers tested electric mobility in real conditions of use at the wheel of one of the electric vehicles involved in the trial: 20 Renault Fluence Z.E., 35 Renault Kangoo Z.E. and ten Nissan Leaf.
Seine Aval, on the cutting edge of electric mobility
The Seine Aval area set the scene for a trial illustrating the possible future of all-electric mobility in France. The area, which was declared an OIN (operation of national interest) by the government, the Yvelines department and the municipalities, groups 51 towns and five inter-municipal bodies along the Seine River in the northern part of the Yvelines department outside Paris. The number and variety of charging stations here is the highest in France. A total of 130 charging stations, of which 48 open to the public, were installed as part of the trial. At the end of the project, 45 charging stations available to the public remained in operation and were upgraded with the latest developments. A further nine charging stations are scheduled for installation before the end of 2013. The stations are located in shopping centre car parks, on the street, in public car parks and in service stations. Wherever you are with your electric vehicle in Seine-Aval, you are never more than 15 km away from a charging station open to the public.
SAVE was an opportunity for all the participants to establish how best to install a complete ecosystem for electric mobility and to explore the related issues. All the technical and economic data necessary for deploying the various types of charging station were collected and analysed. The information gathered concerns:
• the costs and problems related to installing charging stations,
• interoperability between networks, stations and vehicles,
• the need for energy management systems, and for tools and services used in the supervision and running of charging station networks.
This information will provide valuable input for developing a high-performance electric mobility industry alongside a range of products and services that closely reflect customer expectations.
More than 350,000 km covered, for 45.5 tonnes of CO2 avoided
With an average 25 km by day and by car, the electric vehicles were subject to intensive use, proving their ability to satisfy customers’ mobility requirements. Fifteen percent of customers even drove more than 60 km daily. Overall, the electric vehicles covered a distance of over 350,000 kilometres, for 45.5 tonnes of CO2 avoided (compared with an internal-combustion vehicle emitting an average 130g of CO2 / km).
But the carbon footprint of an electric vehicle does not stop with its use. The “well to wheel” assessment also includes the emissions from generating the electricity used to charge the vehicles. The calculations conducted during the trial indicate a “well to wheel” score of 16g of CO2 / km.
Surveys conducted by two external institutes (ACME in June 2011 and LVMT in April 2012) involving 47 users of electric vehicles taking part in the SAVE project confirmed the driveability of electric vehicles. Interviewees praised their smooth, crisp acceleration, and the restful ambience created by the onboard silence and absence of vibrations. The driving experience was described as calmer and more relaxed.
The procedure for charging the electric vehicles at the stations provided was also deemed satisfactory, with customers describing it is simple, easy to grasp and safe. Customers also appreciated being able to charge their vehicles in the workplace or at home, at an average cost of between €1 and 2 per 100 km on their electricity bills.
A range extended by 25%
During the project, Renault provided 46 eco-driving training courses for customers using the vehicles. The drivers trained saw vehicle range increase by an average 25% compared with their usual driving habits for roughly the same average speed during the journey (average variation in speed of 1% between “normal driving” and “eco-driving”).
A number of onboard features on electric vehicles also help the drivers to maintain vehicle range:
• information on the dashboard and on R-Link, a connected, multimedia system, to help drivers manage their journey, • range and charge more effectively,
• the Eco button to increase range by up to 10%,
• pre-conditioning of cabin temperature.
ZOE takes full advantage of the SAVE charging network
ZOE, the vehicle spearheading Renault’s electric strategy, is built at Flins-sur-Seine in the Seine Aval area. This all-electric hatchback has a unique advantage in that it can be charged at any level of power between 3 and 43 kW, with a charging time of between 30 minutes and nine hours. It can therefore use the 22 kW supplied by 22 charging stations out of the 45 in Seine Aval and charge the battery to 80% in just one hour.
Like Nissan Leaf, ZOE can also be charged on the two fast charge stations (43 kW AC / 50 kW DC) deployed by total along the A13 motorway. In this case, it can charge the battery to 80% in just 30 minutes.
Motoring Finds Renault's Zoe EV More Than Eco-Novelty
South African publication's John Simister concludes, 'here, at last, is an electric car you really could own."
Motoring/South Africa 25 Jun 2013
“These” declared the screen at the presentation of Renault's cute new electric car, “are the rivals.” The next frame was blank.
There is nothing directly comparable. Yes, electric versions of recent small cars are on the way, such as Volkswagen's e-Up, but the Zoe is the only purpose-designed electric supermini. Its closest conceptual competition comes from the larger Nissan Leaf, but how many Leaves have you seen out on the road?
Trouble is, electric cars don't go far before the electrons run out, and it takes a long time to replenish them. Which spoils a key element of a car's usefulness: the ability to go where you want, when you want.
The Zoe doesn't change the electric car world, but it does bring it closer to the real one.
The official EU tests credit the Zoe with a 209km range on a full charge. Renault itself estimates at least 145km in summer, 97km in winter using lights, heating and maybe wipers. The dashboard's range indicator is deliberately pessimistic to make you less likely to be stranded by a flat battery.
However, I drove a Zoe a long way on that presentation, and I could have driven further. The drive began with the promise of 130km; 35km of urban traffic later, 113km remained. The entire drive was 90km long, some of it on fast, open roads, and at the end, 68km' worth of charge was left.
So the Zoe exceeded expectations. More than that, it crossed the line from eco-novelty to properly usable commuter car.
There are various reasons for this. Battery technology gets better all the time - Renault believes electric cars should be able to go twice as far as now within the next five to eight years - but a further innovation is a heat-pump system able to heat and cool the cabin using minimum energy.
Further, charging can be remotely controlled by smartphone, as can pre-drive cabin heating and cooling. And a free home charger comes with every Zoe.
And the car itself? It looks clean, simple, futuristic. There's some lovely detailing, such as the clear-lens headlights and tail-lights with their translucent blue floating strips, the motifs on the seats, and the designer's enlarged thumbprint pressed into the rear door handles.
The dashboard is deliciously simple, and its light colouring adds to the airy aura. You can have it dark in the Intens version, but the Expression and Zen models better suit the Zoe's ethereal vibe.
That notion is amplified by the otherworldly, space-age hums it emits at low speeds, to make sure pedestrians hear it coming. You can turn them off, to be left with an uncannily quiet car producing only distant whines at speed.
It's lively, too, with a terrific step-off in traffic unless you're in Eco mode, which saves energy but dooms you never to snick into sudden gaps. Pace tails off quickly as the 84mph top speed approaches, but the Zoe overtakes confidently and seldom leaves you craving more.
It corners tidily and steers accurately, but its hefty 1,468kg mass can fall heavily into road depressions. That and snatchy brakes apart - the integration of electric regenerative and real brakes is imperfect - it gives a comfortable and surprisingly roomy ride.
All this and a tempting price, too. Here, at last, is an electric car you really could own.
At this stage there is no word on whether the Zoe is bound for South Africa.
Renault ZOE: First True Electric Town-Car?
Jeremy Laird gets his hands on new Renault ZOE electric car and concludes that as a town-car proposition, ZOE 'very nearly cracks it,' though he's not happy about its battery lease arrangement.
Tech Radar 31 Mar 2013
Are electric cars the future of motoring? That's a tough question, but with the arrival of the new Renault Zoe we can begin to work out some answers.
That's because, in many ways, the Renault Zoe is easily the most attractive and compelling electric car yet conceived. And it's perhaps the first truly mainstream electric car (or EV) ever made.
Much of that is down to simple pricing. UK on-the-road prices start at just £13,650. That makes the Zoe absolutely price competitive with conventional combustion cars in the same segment. That means cars like the VW Polo, the Vauxhall Corsa and, indeed, Renault's own Clio.
A complicated comparison
There are complications to that comparison. The Zoe depends on a £5,000 government EV grant that has recently been renewed but may not last forever.
You also have to factor in a minimum £70 lease charge for the Zoe's battery. You don't actually own the battery when you buy a Zoe, which is one of the things that helps keeps the purchase price down.
We'll come back to the financials momentarily. First, let's get to grips with the technology that goes into the car.
The core structure is based on the latest Renault Clio. So, you could think of the Zoe as simply a Clio with an electric motor and a fancy frock.
But that's not entirely fair, since the latest Clio was always conceived with optional electric power in mind. That's allowed Renault to engineer the Zoe's 22kWh, 290kg lithium battery pack to be located flat, low and centrally in the chassis.
So the Zoe actually has a lower centre of gravity than a Clio, which is always a good thing for driving dynamics, even if at nearly 1,500kg overall, it's a fair bit heavier than any Clio.
Not just an electric Clio
nside and out, it looks completely different from the Clio, too. And that's all for the better, given the latest Clio's bland design. OK, the Zoe is a bit cutesy and Disney-fied. But it's basically a looker and certainly turns heads.
The cabin also has a mostly pleasing consumer-electronics vibe. The main interior colour options are black and white, with the latter taking on a particularly Apple-esque feel. In fact, the centre console has been designed to resemble a tablet computer.
Renault Zoe: Charging and R-Link
Inside and out, there are technical curiosities, too. In terms of ease of ownership, the anything-you-can-eat charging setup is a big plus.
It basically means you can plug the Zoe into pretty much any power source and leave it to sort out the rest. That includes anything from a basic home power socket to a triple-phase fast charger.
Charging times vary from nine hours for a full charge on that nine amp home socket to 30 minutes for an 80% top up on the triple-phase 63A fast chargers you occasionally see installed around town.
However, Renault is currently offering a special deal that gives you a Wall-box home charging unit for free, including installation. The Wall-box cuts home charging to three and a half hours.
Making life even easier, there's a smartphone app that allows you to track and manage charging remotely.
Back inside, the main techy aspect of note is the Android-powered R-Link. It's pretty much the same as we've previously experienced on the Clio, so hop on over to our previous Renault R-Link landing page.
Suffice to say that we like the basic concept (a touchscreen Android based infotainment system). But we're unconvinced by the execution (sluggish response, less than compelling apps, low-res graphics).
It's also worth noting that the navigation, which is provided by TomTom, isn't up to the usual TomTom high standards. Frame rates are very low and the mapping can be confusing, leading to quite a few errors during our test drive.
Driving the Renault Zoe
But what's the Zoe actually like to drive? That depends on where you're coming from. If you've never driven an EV, the immediate impression as you climb aboard is what's all the fuss about?
The steering wheel, the two pedals, you could be in any hatchback with an automatic gearbox. But as soon as you start moving, you'll be immediately blown away by the sheer refinement. At low speeds, it's almost unnerving how little noise it makes.
Suddenly, any conventional combustion hatchback seems absolutely antediluvian. What's more, with no gears to change, that serenity is never broken. It's a very seamless experience.
At higher speeds (the Zoe is limited to 84mph, its 88hp electric motor would probably allow it to crack 100mph, unlimited), you'll notice both wind and road roar seem heightened. But that's mainly because there's no engine noise to drown them out.
Not exactly a hot hatch
Overall performance, meanwhile, is fairly described as adequate. It feels similar to, say, a 1.2l hatchback in this class, just with a sharper immediate step off thanks to the electric motor's instant torque.
For EV aficionados, there's nothing hugely surprising about the Zoe. Nissan's Leaf is a little quicker, but also feels less agile than the Zoe.
All of which brings us to the ever-critical question of operating range. On the official NEDC cycle, the Zoe is rated at 130 miles. For context, the Nissan Leaf is rated at 109 miles, though an upgrade to 124 miles is coming soon.
Anyway, on paper the Zoe's range looks good. In practice, it's impressive, too. We intentionally drove without particular effort to nurse the battery and still got over 100 miles of real-world range.
For some, even 100 miles isn't nearly enough. But roughly 30% of cars in this class never complete a single journey of over 100 miles, from manufacture to final scrapping. As a daily town car, the Zoe's range is a non issue.
Renault Zoe: Running costs
What's more problematical is the running cost proposition. When you buy a Zoe, you're not buying the battery. You merely lease it. Prices start at £70 a month.
That's a problem. Here's why. Electric cars are not good long distance cars. They're good for lots of short journeys, day after day.
Very roughly, £70 is a tank of fuel. Most superminis will do 300 miles or more (possible much more if it's a diesel) on a tank. If, let's say, you do 10 miles a day, five days a week, that's a little over 200 miles a month. So, that tank could well last more than a month.
What's more, you still have to pay for electricity to charge the thing. OK, that will probably only add another £5 at worst per full charge, and usually a lot less (UK electricity is typically priced around 10p to 30p per kWh).
Road tax Freebie
And yes, you get free road tax and, for Londoners, you're Congestion Charge exempt, which for some could mean a big savings. But the bottom line for most is that you probably need to do more miles in a Zoe than really suits the usage model for an EV in terms of range to make the sums add up favourably.
That's a shame, because there's lots to like about the Zoe. It's a genuine, usable EV and the first we feel we can recommend. It just needs to be a bit more attractive financially.
As for that broader question of electric cars being the future of motoring, well, the jury remains out. EVs are certainly not a total transport solution. Other technologies are still required for longer journeys. But as a town-car proposition, the Zoe very nearly cracks it.
Renault ZOE Electric Car Leaves Reviewer Impressed
The Register's Alun Taylor reports after test drive that the Renault ZOE ZE electric car makes a very convincing case for itself, not just as an EV, but as a car.
The Register/UK 24 Mar 2013
To argue that the electric car has already failed is farcical. To date only one mass-market EV from an established car maker has been launched in the UK: the Nissan Leaf. Even I’m not fully convinced by the Leaf. I think it’s too big, too ugly and too expensive. A revised, cheaper, longer-range Sunderland-built model will address some of those failings, but I can’t see it changing my essential feelings towards it.
No, in my opinion the only two cars that will fly the flag of the e-car in a convincing manner in 2013 are Toyota’s Prius Plug-in hybrid and Renault’s new Zoe BEV. If in two years’ time global sales of these two are still piss poor then, and only then, will I discuss the “failure” of the e-car.
My initial impressions of the Zoe were gathered over the course of a two-day test in and around Lisbon on roads that looked like they had last been repaired just before the Romans pulled out. Naturally this also meant I was driving a left-hand drive car so I can’t guarantee the ergonomics of the right hookers we’ll get in the UK.
The Zoe is based on the same shared Nissan-Renault platform that underpins the new Mk. IV Clio. So everything is bang up to date and as safe as any other car in its class right down to the five-star Euro NCAP rating. The platform should also be a clue that the Zoe is a size smaller than the Leaf: a largish B-class rather than a C.
For drivers, the good news is that out on the open road, despite only having a 65kW (88bhp) electric motor, the Zoe feels both quick and responsive. More importantly it feels light and agile which is quite an achievement when you remember that there is a 290kg battery pack slung beneath the cabin.
The top speed may be limited to 84mph but the Zoe accelerates up to it briskly with no fuss or drama. The actual 0-62mph scamper takes 13.5 seconds but in real world driving the 220Nm (162 lb-ft) of torque that’s available from the off makes it feel faster than that.
Compared to the driving experience of the Renault Fluence or the Nissan Leaf, the Zoe is a big step forward. It’s just so much more fun to throw around the bends. It’s also completely silent. There’s not a hint of motor whine and road noise is well suppressed. Even by EV standards this is a very refined car.
While silence may be golden for the occupants the same is not true for pedestrians, and certainly not the aged, the hard of hearing or the plain inattentive. With this in mind the Zoe can generate three different sounds when under low -speed acceleration, any of which could double as the sound of a starship’s drive engines in a budget sci-fi movie.
Unlike the visually challenged Leaf, the Zoe looks as good as it goes. Sharing a clear family identity with the new Clio it strikes an appealing balance between contemporary small car chic and EV futurism. In my opinion it’s one of the most interesting cars on the road alongside the Citroën DS3.
Like the Clio, the Zoe is only available as a five-door, but the rear pair are designed to be as close to invisible as possible with the handles hidden away in the C-pillar. The curious ridged pattern on the door catches is the thumbprint of the Zoe’s designer, Jean Sémériva.
Inside the cabin, the crisp and modern design ethic is continued, though I struggled to see the supposed influence of the shape of a wind turbine blade in the design.
The dash is again Clio-esque but none the worse for that, and the seats are simply superb. I’ve never parked my backside on anything this comfortable in a B or C class car. All-round visibility is good too, making the Zoe very easy to drive down the narrow twisty lanes that crisscross Lisbon.
To drive the Zoe is little different from any other car with a good automatic gearbox: just get in, push the start button, snick the console-mounted gear selector into D and away you go. The dash is very easy to understand and mercifully devoid of excessively patronising eco signage.
For navigation, entertainment and Bluetooth telephony, the Android-based R-Link touchscreen telematics system has been carried over from the Clio.
R-Link is a GSM-connected system and in the Zoe it also supports the My Z.E. Connect and My Z.E. inter@ctive (sic) systems, which let you monitor and, in the case of inter@ctive, manage your Zoe remotely through either a web browser or a smartphone app.
Interior space for both people and kit is generous and a major advance from the Fluence, which has a compromised boot thanks to the vertical battery pack designed to work with Better Place’s quick-drop robotic battery swap docks.
Renault’s engineers told me that the Zoe has been designed with one eye on quick-drop so adding it as a feature in a mid-life refresh wouldn’t pose too many problems should the need arise, though the system won't be compatible with Better Place’s existing stations.
Under the large Renault diamond on the Zoe’s schnoz is the now standard Type 2 power connector. It’s what Renault calls a Chameleon charger, meaning you can connect it to a 3kW, 22kW or 43kW power source for standard, accelerated or fast charging.
The second and third options will charge the Zoe’s 400V, 192-cell, 22kWh battery from near flat to 80 per cent of maximum capacity in 60 or 30 minutes, respectively. I’ve not tried a 43kW charger but the 22kW unit I used in a multi-storey car park in Lisbon worked exactly as advertised.
The standard test cycle maximum driving range of the Zoe is 210km but, as Renault makes clear, this is as irrelevant as an ICE car’s fuel consumption figures. Renault’s actual quoted range is between 100 and 150km.
Every time I pushed the On button on a charged Zoe I was shown a 125km (77 miles) range. No matter how I drove, the combination of distance covered and distance projected never dipped below that. Careful driving and use of the power-limiting Eco button saw the combined projection rise to over 145km (90 miles).
So despite the smaller battery pack my experience was that in everyday driving the Zoe has pretty much the same effective range as Nissan’s Leaf: around 75 to 80 miles. A reliable indication of touring range is of course key to lessening range anxiety, and Renault seems to have cracked the problem with the Zoe. What you see on the dash is what you get.
If you want to venture further afield, all Renault main dealers will soon have free charge points installed. I don’t have a breakdown of how many will get the faster 22kW and 43kW units though I suspect most will at least have the former. Incidentally, since the Leaf fast-chargers on Nissan forecourts use DC rather than AC, you can’t use them to charge up a Zoe.
Looking to the longer term, Renault’s battery lease scheme includes a clause that once the maximum recharge capacity drops below 75 per cent, or if the battery ever becomes “non-operational”, Renault will fit a new one. The strikes me as a major advantage over the Leaf and removes the potential worry about lifetime battery degradation.
When the time comes to sell your Zoe, the battery lease is simply picked up by the new owner.
To help maximise range, Renault has cooked up a three-part system called Range OptimiZEr, which includes a new and more efficient regenerative braking system when compared to the one in the Fluence, a heat pump that compresses and so heats air to warm the cabin, and new low-resistance Michelin EV tyres.
Whatever the energy saving characteristics of the tyres they seemed to have no untoward effect on ride, grip or handling, I’m pleased to report.
The cherry on the Zoe cake - and arguably its most important feature - is that it is genuinely affordable. In the UK the entry-level model is yours for £13,650 after the British government's plug-in car grant. On top of that you’ll need to find £70 a month for the cheapest 36-month battery lease. That’s equivalent to just over 50 litres of unleaded at pre-Budget prices.
Those numbers make sense to me. Assuming you pay cash on the nail and cough up the first 12 months’ battery lease, you will still have change from 15 grand which is the same as you’d expect to pay for a similarly sized five-door hatch with a petrol engine under the bonnet.
The usual Doubting Thomases will by now no doubt have started to howl and moan about what they see as the Zoe’s and, indeed, every other EV’s fundamental impracticality. Quite why, I don’t know.
If you need a car that can travel further than 75-odd miles, the Zoe is quite obviously not the car for you. Bitching about it makes as much sense as complaining that you can’t get a three-seat sofa and five fat blokes in a VW Up. Of course you can’t, so don’t buy one.
The same goes for people who question the practicality of EVs because they happen to live in a place where they can’t have the (free) wall-mounted 13-amp charge box installed. That’s not a problem for me, or my neighbours, or most of my friends, or a lot of other people. If it’s a problem for you, that’s just hard luck.
The Reg Verdict
As you should have surmised by now, my time with the Zoe left me impressed. Stylish, refined and a hoot to drive, it’s a cracking little car and, thanks to the pricing structure, buying one isn’t out of the question. Clearly a public charging infrastructure a little less medieval than the one in the UK would be handy, but even as that stands I could live with a Zoe on a daily basis as my only car and leaping between Renault dealers’ chargers makes it possible to venture even further afield.
Of course, this review will no doubt draw the usual flak from libertarian yahoos who seem to object on principle to any product even partly inspired by the need to try to reduce the all too obvious causes of climate change. But much to their chagrin, and that of EV-haters in general, the Zoe makes a very convincing case for itself. Not a convincing case as an EV, mind - a convincing case as a car.
Renault ZOE Electric Car Passes Cold Weather Tests In Lapland
At -25°C, ZOE is fully functional and drops in performance are almost unnoticeable.
Renault Blog 20 Aug 2012
We recently put ZOE through its paces in Lapland. All summer long we have shown you each step in the genesis of the new model, from design to crash tests. And now we are going to look at a decisive phase in the conception of our electric city car: cold weather tests.
All about cold weather tests
Vehicle powertrains and mechanical components are subjected to tough conditions in winter. So we have to make sure that the cars we put on the road can resist extreme temperatures. Other components apart from the engine are closely monitored. The gearbox, for example, must not be restricted or slowed down by extreme cold.
We check a broad range of equipment, including the heating, and pay close attention to the quality of defogging and defrosting systems and the correct operation of shock absorbers and the ABS in snow. We also ensure that no snow gets under the hood or builds up on the brakes, which could lead to problems. The only way to properly check these points is through cold weather test drives. Which is why they are so important.
In short, the aim of cold weather tests is to detect any operating problems and solve them. By simulating winter conditions, the tests allow us to validate technological choices that guarantee consistent vehicle behavior and comfort in the most extreme conditions.
Electric vehicle particularities
As you probably know, an electric vehicle doesn’t react the same way to cold as an internal-combustion vehicle. ZOE doesn’t use oil or gas, so our engineers don’t have to monitor these items. But other ZOE components required particular attention during cold weather testing.
First of all, we had to examine how cold weather conditions affect the battery, notably in terms of:
- Capacity: a very cold battery doesn’t fully charge. It can be compared to a fuel tank that contracts in the cold. The result is, of course, reduced range.
- Power: a cold battery cannot provide all the power required by the motor, reflected in weaker acceleration.
- Charge: an overly cold battery cannot be charged too fast, making for longer “quick” charging times. Cold, however, has no impact on standard charging, via a Wall-Box.
We also had to check the charging system:
The charging socket has to remain accessible (flap not blocked in freezing weather)
The cable has to be flexible enough to be rolled up at any time
The cable must not remain blocked in the socket.
Our first conclusions on ZOE’s results: At -25°C, ZOE is fully functional and drops in performance are almost unnoticeable. The battery performs very well in cold conditions from this point of view.
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