First Drive 2013 Renault Zoe Electric Hatchback Zero Carbon World

19 Апр 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи First Drive 2013 Renault Zoe Electric Hatchback Zero Carbon World отключены
Renault Zoe Electric Cars

First Drive: 2013 Renault Zoe Electric Hatchback

As anyone who has purchased an electric car in the past few years will tell you, electric cars haven’t always been particularly cheap. Or at least, the ones capable of driving on the motorway haven’t.

Due to go on sale later this year at a starting price of £18,995 (£13,995 after a £5,000 UK Government Plug-in Car Grant) the Renault Zoe is Renault’s attempt to make electric motoring truly affordable for everyone.

From a distance, Zoe looks very much like the current generation Renault Clio, although a little taller. That’s hardly surprising, since Zoe shares much of its chassis and running gear with the popular hatchback.

But perhaps the most shocking similarity between Zoe and Clio is the price. While the base-level 1.2 liter 16-vale Clio Expression+ is £2,000 cheaper than the base-level Zoe, the zippy Zoe is only a few hundred pounds more expensive than the Clio Expression+ Eco 2 TCe 90 with Stop/Start.

How has Renault made Zoe so much cheaper than the competition? The secret is its battery rental model.

Unlike some other automakers which sell you the car and the battery pack, Renault sells you the car, but then leases you the battery pack for a set monthly fee. How much you actually pay depends on how many miles you will be driving in a year.

For example, if you plan on driving around 7,500 miles per year, you’ll be paying £70 per month on a 36 month battery rental agreement. Driving 12,000 miles results in a monthly rental of £93.

Why battery rental? As well as providing a regular monthly income to Renault, the battery rental insulates the customer from any premature battery aging, as the lease agreement covers battery maintenance and a minimum guaranteed battery health.

In other words, the battery warranty is unlimited, provided you pay your rental agreement every month.

In addition, Renault’s ownership model includes preferential rental rates for those who don’t have access to a longer range petrol car for trips beyond the Zoe’s range.

Day or night, Renault says it will ensure you can get behind the wheel of a petrol or diesel car to make those long-distance trips the Zoe can’t easily manage.

That’s a great selling point, but we’re not so sure you’ll need it.

You see, Zoe is the first mass-produced electric car to go on sale with an onboard charger that will revolutionise the way we think about electric cars.

Meet the Chameleon charger, a tiny powerhouse of a charger capable of refilling the Zoe a dizzying number of ways.

For regular home-based charging, Zoe will charge from a standard 16 amp, single phase wall box in between 6 and 8 hours.

Then, when using a Charging Station like the Zero Carbon World 32A type 2 unit, it can charge in half that time, around 4 hours.

But that’s not all. Thanks to an ability to charge using three-phase power, Zoe can also charge in 2 hours using an 11 kW three-phase Charging Station. At a suitable 22 kW three-phase charging station, you’ll get to 80 percent full in under an hour, while a purpose-built 43 kW Charging Station will refill the battery packs to 80 percent full in a little under 30 minutes.

It’s this ability to take power from virtually any source and use it to charge its battery packs, which makes the Zoe such an important vehicle.

Sadly though, all that flexibility comes at a cost: Zoe will be the first electric car sold in the UK which will not charge from a 13A wall outlet. While technically possible, Renault has said it will not offer the feature as standard when Zoe launches in June this year.

If there’s enough demand, Renault has indicated it will examine the possibility for future use. For now, however, 16A, 230V is the slowest you can charge, meaning you’ll need a charging station at home before you buy one.

While this may exclude renters from buying a Zoe, we think this its public charging capabilities will outweigh this little flaw by most car buyers willing and able to spend a few hundred pounds on a Charging Station for their home.

On paper, Zoe has an NEDC-approved range of 130 miles, but even Renault admits this will be between 60 and 93 miles in real life, depending on how it is driven.

That said, there are a host of features in Zoe designed to make driving as efficient as possible.

Here are just three.

First, Renault has replaced the traditional heating system found in its Fluence ZE and Kangoo ZE electric cars with a heat pump. Similar to the one found in the 2013 Nissan Leaf, Zoe’s heat pump can transfer up to 3 kilowatts of heat energy using just 1 kilowatt of electrical energy. In everyday driving, this translates to less energy being used to heat the cabin, and improved range in the winter.

Next, Renault has replaced the traditional brakes found on most cars with what it calls a decoupled braking system . Instead of a physical connection between the pedal and the brake discs, Renault’s system uses an onboard micro-controller to determine if the car should be slowed down using the car’s regenerative braking system, the friction brakes, or both.

In this way, Renault ensures it recaptures as much of the kinetic energy of movement when you slow down as possible, turning it back into electrochemical energy which it can then store in the battery pack.

Third, Zoe comes with a new set of low rolling-resistance tyres, designed by Michelin exclusively for electric cars. Making their premiere on Zoe, the tyres contain a special compound which gives unparalleled energy efficiency under normal driving conditions without compromising handling.

Like other electric cars on the market, Zoe offers a choice between a standard driving mode and an eco driving mode, which limits the power drain on the car’s 65 kilowatt motor and electrical systems.

Renault Zoe Electric Cars

When driven in town, Eco Mode is more than adequate to handle traffic, maximising range per charge. On the open road, Eco Mode is noticeably slower to accelerate than the regular drive mode, although an automatic kickdown simulation gives access to full power should you need it.

Which brings us neatly to the matter of handling and performance. On the open, wet roads around Cascais, Portugal, our test Zoe performed admirably for the conditions, gripping the roads well and offering minimal body roll on corners.

When it came to acceleration, we found the Zoe sprang to 30 mph in no time at all, beating everything from porsche cayennes to a VW Golf R32 off the lights. However, Zoe quickly ran out of enthusiasm around the 50 mph mark, despite an electronically-limited top speed of 83 mph.

That’s hardly a major flaw in a car designed primarily for the city life, but it may make you think twice before overtaking someone on anything but a major A road out of town.

With fit, finish and trim appropriate to a B-segment car, there are no major surprises when it comes to the options list. Renault’s R-Link — a system comprising of a specially modified TomTom navigation system and telematics which let you monitor and charge your car remotely — is included as standard across the range, as is a reasonably acceptable 4x20W radio, complete with USB input, 3.5mm jack, SD card slot and bluetooth connectivity. Note the lack of CD player, which may infuriate those without a portable music player.

A major flaw of the Zoe’s design means that the SD card slot, which also doubles up as the map slot for the navigation system, is all too easy to hit when placing something in the centre console. And because SD slots are usually sprung-loaded, the SD card containing the maps flew out.

Even after reinserting it, nothing worked, leaving us without navigation in a strange city — forcing us to return to the airport and pick up a replacement car.

The navigation directions too, seemed late and sub-par. Resorting to google maps running on an iPhone gave us more precise directions than Renault’s on-board TomTom system could muster.

Niggles aside, the Zoe combines the practicality of a small five-door hatchback, the largest boot space of any car in its class, and an easy driving style.

Visibility is good, and for those wanting some extra chic, there’s even an on-board air ioniser and scent dispenser for when city life gets too much.

While the Zoe doesn’t ooze the premium feel of some other electric cars on the market, it looks, feels, and behaves as a 1.1 liter hatchback should. It just happens to be powered by electricity instead.

Despite its little flaws however, the chameleon charger makes everything better. In fact, it makes charging so simple, everyone will want to have a go at plugging in.

Revolutionary design? No. Revolutionary concept? No. Revolutionary experience? Yes.

The humble Zoe is the first electric car to bring the joys of zero emission motoring to the masses. And just like a french pastry, we think you’ll find it irresistible.

Vive La Revolution Electrique!

Renault provided airfare, lodging and meals to let ZCW bring you this first person drive report.

Renault Zoe Electric Cars
Renault Zoe Electric Cars
Renault Zoe Electric Cars

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