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Zoe sparks new life into the EV debate

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The DriveWrite Archives Topics:  Renault Zoe

Zoe sparks new life into the EV debate

Geoff Maxted
July 2, 2013

Renualt Zoe EV Renualt Zoe EV
Here at DriveWrite I have, if I’m honest, been a bit sceptical about the whole electric vehicle scene. I don’t think the cars offered to date look that appealing, there’s the range issue and, well, they’re not like really proper cars are they? Prepare then, to be amazed as DriveWrite has a Saint Paul moment and is converted on the Road to Tetbury. Reader, I give you the Renault Zoe.

That’s it in the main picture and it really is a well styled and attractive supermini. There’s nothing about that it shouts, ’Look at me, I’m an EV!’ Renault believe that their customers put style at the top of the list of priorities and that’s probably true. Climb aboard and be greeted by a very attractive interior with clean, uncluttered styling. There’s an excellent screen with a rear camera option that works well.

The seats are very comfortable with good support. With the driver’s seat set perfectly for me - and I’m about six foot tall - I was also able to sit behind myself in perfect comfort with ample knee room which is so often compromised in smaller cars. The boot space is generous and well within the parameters expected for this sector.

Let’s deal with the range issue. It is what you’d expect. Under normal driving conditions in the Summer, the Zoe driver can expect around 90 miles on a charge, depending on conditions. In the winter and allowing for the use of lights and heater this drops to about 60mph. So far, so expected but the Zoe had some tricks up it sleeve.

Renault have developed the Range OptimiZEr, a system combining three major innovations – new-generation regenerative braking, a heat pump and Michelin Energy E-V tyres. This system makes Renault ZOE the best of the volume-produced electric vehicles. The heat pump is especially interesting as it operates in the same way as a reverse-cycle air-conditioning system and consumes little electricity. It produces warm or cool air simply by reversing the cycle of operation. The heat pump generates approximately 2kW of cooling or 3kW of heat with just 1kW of electricity. This also makes for a more stable cabin temperature since it is independent of the calories produced by the motor.

That’s all very well, I hear you say, but it still doesn’t go very far. This is true but if you think about it, how far does the actual driver go in one trip? If you’re always on the road and doing 30k miles a year then this car probably is not for you. The fact is that unless a driver does very long trips then most journeys are in fact perfectly feasible.

Renault will come to your house and fit a charging box FOC. The car utilises the company’s ‘Chameleon Charger’ - a world first - that allows owners to use one socket to make the most of whatever the power of the socket you’re near and compatible with 3-43kW AC. This means charging times from 30 minutes for 80% battery capacity from empty, and normal charging at home of about 8 hours. Simply plug the car in… and let it take care of itself! Remember too that more and more public charging points are being established.

Finally, Renault’s answer to the battery longevity question is to lease the things to owners. Doesn’t matter how many times the car is sold on the deal remains. Leasing costs from £70 pcm. This is an expense you maybe were not expecting but think about it: what’s your average petrol bill every month? Now it doesn’t look so bad does it? Also, the concern about how long the battery pack will last can now be discounted.

Performance is remarkably good, with real punch under acceleration. To counter fears that pedestrians won’t hear you coming the Zoe has a ‘ZE Voice’ fitted. This is a car-like noise that the vehicle emits at low speeds to warn those walkers hovering on the kerbs. Above 20mph the car makes the same tyre and wind noise as everything else.

This car has been designed from the ground up as an EV and is very well priced. It is definitely not just a converted Clio. This is the car that will spearhead a revival of interest in electric cars and DriveWrite can honestly commend it to you.

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