Saturday 23 March 2019

This cute squeeze falls short

More EVs are rolling up and this one charges fast but still brings on range anxiety, writes Campbell Spray

DRAINED ZOE: Space in the back is a turn off with this popular EV — and the range isn’t that great either
DRAINED ZOE: Space in the back is a turn off with this popular EV — and the range isn’t that great either

The news that Dublin has been named as one of the worst cities in the world to be a driver came as no surprise last week as I had spent nearly 30 minutes travelling a few kilometres from the city centre at rush hour.

I try to avoid rush-hour driving as it is pointless for all the stress involved; far better to travel earlier or later. The new report from motor data company INRIX shows commuters spent 246 hours stuck in cars in the city last year, which astonishingly enough is 4pc less than people spent in their cars in 2017.

Among the 200 cities surveyed, the Colombian capital Bogota is the city with the highest losses in terms of traffic hours - with drivers stuck in their cars for 272 hours a year. Next comes Rome and then Dublin

The INRIX data looks at traffic, parking and population movements to help city planners and engineers make data-driven decisions to prioritise spending, improve planning and reduce costs.

I heard Dr Brian Caulfield, associate professor at Trinity College Dublin, tell Newstalk Breakfast that slow speeds as a result of the congestion are influencing the results.

"One of the things that you can look at this in a positive way is that it shows people how long they're spending in their cars alone - I think the report says something like 10 days a year.

"But if you look at the average bus speeds in the city (which) are around 15km an hour, which is a good bit faster than sitting in your car - so it kind of gives that comparison to people that are making their choices on how they commute."

On public transport, he said: "If there were more options available, people would have more viable alternatives to get out of their car and on to public transport. When it comes to more investment in lanes in the city centre, space for cars in the city centre - that's not there.

"One of the things I always say is that we have a space problem when it comes to transport, not really a transport problem. And the amount of space we dedicate to the private car is limited, because we have to dedicate more space to mass transit to get more people into the same vehicle."

No wonder this motoring correspondent is more often to be found on a bike, bus or Luas during the working week; motoring is kept for the weekend when we head out of the city.

Last week I was driving the Renault Zoe, the small French fully electric car. It is a measure of the rise of EVs this year that it was the second one I had driven this year and the third, the BMW i3, is due this Tuesday.

The Zoe on test was the top-of-the-range Signature Nav model with the more powerful R110 motor and lots of luxury - like leather seats, Bose audio, parking camera, etc as standard. I was pretty fond of it but could not take my eyes off the amazingly phallic display which showed the battery charging when you braked or slowed the car by taking your foot off the accelerator.

It was pleasant to drive; however a quick belt around the M50, to attend the rather uplifting event to commemorate the passing of my former colleague Noel Reid, quickly drained the battery and brought back the dreaded range anxiety which wasn't present at all in my recent test of the Hyundai Kona.

The Zoe might claim a range of up to 317km but even fully charged the test car was well short of that. But the Zoes do have the advantage of fast charging of 85km in 30 minutes at ordinary charging points.

Renault confirmed its position as Europe's number one EV brand in 2018, with almost 50,000 units sold and 22.2pc market share. The Zoe is the brand's best-selling electric model. While prices might start at a couple of coffees under €25,000, the test car was €6,000 more than that.

It still remains a small car that promises three seats in the back but even two adults would feel squeezed, and if they are approaching six foot they would be touching the roof. I found it distinctly uncomfortable trying to get in and out of the back.

My partner thought the car a bit tinny but I think she was over influenced by the loud metallic sound of the indicator.

On the whole, it is quite a cute EV but the space in the rear is a turn-off.

Sunday Independent

Also in Life