Let Renault's Zoe guide you to electric future as petrol dries up
The new Renault Zoe has a beefed-up battery and is more than just an electric car for the city
Sometimes, even the best ideas take time to catch on. Remember when CDs were considered just a fad, dial-up internet was fast and who needed Google when we had Yahoo? Similarly, the impact of electric cars has been slow, particularly in Ireland, where drivers may applaud the zero-emission cleanliness of an EV and relish the economy, but up to now have been reluctant buyers due to range anxiety and high prices.
Regardless of our hesitancy, it seems rapid change will transform our cars, the way we drive and the global energy economy. As reported in last week's Sunday Independent, investment bank UBS is predicting that the cost of owning an electric car will fall to the same level as petrol-powered vehicles by next year and one independent think tank predicts that in eight years no more petrol or diesel cars, buses or trucks will be sold anywhere in the world. "We are on the cusp of one of the fastest, deepest, most consequential disruptions of transportation in history," said Stanford University economist Tony Seba. "By 2025, all new vehicles will be electric, globally."
It is therefore particularly fortuitous timing for Renault to launch the latest version of the all-electric Zoe. We were huge fans of the original Zoe; however, the first incarnation could only manage around 160km on a single charge. This has now been addressed with a new 41kWh battery. This is almost double the capacity of the original 22kWh battery and pushes the Zoe's range to a realistic 300km, so beating the Hyundai Ioniq and Nissan's Leaf.
Renault has also made significant changes to the way the Zoe is sold. When it was first launched, you had to lease the battery for a monthly fee; now the new version is offered as an all-inclusive deal - you buy the entire car, battery and all.
Inside it is light and airy, with lots of features borrowed from larger siblings. The almost spartan cabin is clean and deliberately simple, save only the LED instrument display and iPad-like infotainment console. Room in the front and back is good, so passengers and luggage will not be jostling for space.
On the road it feels very much like the latest generation Clio and with no engine there's much less noise to distract you from thinking just how green you've become. Like all EVs, full power and torque is available instantly, so as you hit the pedal and it whisks you seamlessly from 0-100km in a leisurely 13.2 seconds it feels so much faster. Electric cars may be considered solely for urban dwellers, but the Zoe copes well on the motorway.
With expensive batteries, EVs tend to have higher prices than comparable diesel or petrol-powered cars and the Zoe is no different.
This latest model will be sold with a choice of both batteries; the older 22 kWh battery-powered is now the entry-level car, so prices start from €23,490. This price includes the SEAI grant (€5,000) and VRT relief. The Dynamique Nav trim with the new battery is priced from €27,480. The Signature Nav version comes in at €28,980.
The Zoe is also the first electric car to carry the Chameleon charger. It's compatible with all power levels up to 43kW (fast charger) and offers charge times between 30 minutes and nine hours. According to Renault, it can achieve an 80pc capacity in about an hour using the accelerator 22kWh public charge point.
Three main trim levels, Expression Nav, Dynamique Nav and the new top-of-the-range Signature Nav, offer graduated amounts of goodies. All versions get a seven-inch touch screen housing Renault's easy-to-use R-Link2 infotainment system with TomTom satellite navigation and more.
We'd upgrade to Dynamique Nav to benefit from the new Z.E.40 battery - plus you get a one-year subscription to the Z.E. interactive app that can tell you where the nearest available charging point is, and it allows you to select charging points by charging type, charging capacity and speed.
The Renault Zoe is roomy enough for a small family to live with, good to drive and practical, but, more importantly, against the backdrop of imminent change, the Zoe is a key part of a future of EVs that goes far to satisfy real-world driving needs of range, comfort and performance.