Appeal for 'action' on electric cars as ZOE stretches range
First Irish drive: Renault ZOE ZE 40
The government needs to set out its stall on its plans for electric cars if it is serious about reducing transport emissions, a leading motoring figure claims.
In his last Budget, Finance Minster Michael Noonan challenged the motor industry and car buyers to go electric when he extended VRT relief (€5,000) on electric vehicles for five years.
But it is not enough, according to Patrick Magee, country operations manager with Renault Group Ireland.
He claims there is too much uncertainly around electric cars at government level. He says there needs to be a five-year-plan so manufacturers can plan with certainty. Anything can happen: "They could change VRT. But if we can lock in to a five-year deal with the government it would make a big difference. Doing something on BIK would make a difference. The problem is everything is short-term."
He was speaking at the unveiling here of the latest ZOE ZE 40 electric supermini. This version has a longer real-world range. I got 280km on one charge, driving abroad so I do, for once, believe the claim it will do 300km in summer driving; probably 200km in the winter (heating, lights etc soak it up).
There are few styling changes; they've tidied it up a bit inside and out but nothing major.
And they are continuing with the old, lower-range battery, in the belief it will still suit some people. The bad news is the new one costs a good deal more: €27,000 is a chunk of money but there you go. Thankfully, you now buy, rather than rent (ridiculous), the battery. The 'old version' costs €23,480 (240km NEDC). But the new one - in Dynamique Nav trim costs from €27,480. The Signature Nav version comes in at €28,980.
It's good they are using real-world driving and not the abysmally outdated NEDC test results. The NEDC suggests 400km on a single charge; not on your life.
It's fair to say there are two major changes: the technology and how they are going to sell the car.
The key question they need to answer is: Why would you/I buy a ZOE? And I think they're going about doing that the right way.
We know it is not for the big-mileage driver. But maybe it would suit more of us than we think. The CSO says the average commute is 64km a day. Two charges a week should cover that. By the way research shows that among people who commute most are from rural areas in Wicklow (to Dublin), Clare (to Shannon).
Apart from the more powerful new battery, helping stretch the ZOE's range are regenerative braking, an energy-efficient heat pump, low-rolling resistance Michelin tyres and an Eco mode which limits dynamics and air con (it sure does).
Between the jigs and the reels on our drive to the sun-drenched jewel of Burtown House and Gardens, near Athy, I computed I'd get around 250km on one charge (what we covered and what was left) but the driving was atypically motorway limit for a good part of the return.
Buyers are expected to do most of their charging at home (overnight).
There is Chameleon charger, however, for use at the 1,200 public charging points (controlled by ESB so one card applies). The vast majority are 22KW and Renault claim ZOE is the only EV that can charge at that level. Some other cars are limited to 3.6KWs or 6.5KWs so they charge more slowly. With the ZOE an hour should add 120/130km.
Would you buy? You'll get a chance to find out as they are working with dealers to set up 24-hour test drives programme just to get you into cars and let you see for yourself.
In some instances ZOEs will be given out as courtesy cars when your vehicle is in for servicing, for example.
All that is hopeful and grand but will it make a whit of difference?
The EV market segment is 0.3pc of all cars sold. Even if it doubles it is tiny but you've got to start somewhere and there is a sense - across the industry - that electric will be a major force in the medium term. But, as Mr Magee argues, we need direction from government.