Motoring: Improved charger does Zoe the power of good
Faster charging should help ease range worries.
A new electric car has hit the streets with innovations that will help to popularise zero-emission driving, which has had a sluggish start here due to pricing and limited-battery-range anxiety.
The Renault Zoe – the fourth zero-emission car from Renault, which goes on sale in July – comes to market with a starting price tag of €17,490 ex-works and a theoretical range of 210km, although it is admitted that 150km in normal weather and 100km in cold weather is more likely.
There is also the opportunity for purchasers to enter an agreement with Renault Finances to lease the car (and battery) for under €60 a week with a deposit and limitations on kilometre use per year – a tempting prospect for commuters and environmentally friendly city-dwellers who want to wave goodbye to costly petrol/diesel fill-ups. But fail to pay up and Renault can remotely disable the car's ability to charge the battery. How is that for smart technology?
But there is other smart technology in the Zoe: it comes with a charger compatible with all power levels up to 43kW. Charging batteries at a high level output can give 80 per cent capacity in 30 minutes and one hour on less powerful charging points. On a domestic supply, full capacity is reached in nine hours – an overnight charge.
If you buy the car outright, battery rental costs from €49 a month. Renault will replace the battery if it fails or if performance drops below 75 per cent. Other manufacturers sell the battery packs as part of the price; the Renault policy may hamper sales but the reduced charging times are a big improvement and will help ease the anxiety factor.
A car with funky looks and a good-sized cabin for a super-mini sized car, the Zoe is easy to drive with one lever for forward and reverse so city driving should be a relaxing experience. With fewer operating parts maintenance should be low, and a five-year unlimited-mileage warranty is offered.
The electric motor generates 88bhp with 220NM of torque on tap from the "off'' and the 0-100km sprint takes 13.5secs with a maximum speed of 135kmh. Built on a Clio platform, the body is taller and it has more boot space – 338 litres/1,225 litres depending on seat arrangement – as the batteries are located under the body.
There are three trim levels and the air conditioning can be activated while charging to save on battery power. This also has the benefit that the interior temperature is at the desired level when the driver returns. All versions have a five-star NCAP safety rating.