ZOE Keeps Her Promise 2: 122 Mile Range (196km)

Arriving home after 122miles on one charge (Image: T. Larkum)
Arriving home after 122 miles on one charge (Image: T. Larkum)

After my previous attempt at a range record achieved 111 miles I was confident that I could beat it, so last week I had another go on my regular commuting route. This time I managed 122 miles (196km) on one charge. The approach was essentially the same as last time, so review that post for the details, except that I drove carefully and in Eco mode from the very start, and I had fully inflated the tyres beforehand.

I did, however, learn a few new things:

1. I knew this time the expected behaviour of the instruments, particularly the low charge indicators and the eventual complete loss of the range predictor, so I was more confident to keep driving even at a low battery state.

2. There is no ‘turtle’ mode that I could discern. Last time I thought the car was limited, though not consistently, to a maximum of 20mph. In fact I was confused; the limit came from the Speed Limiter value that I had set, and the reason I couldn’t set the speed to a lower value at the end, as I had hoped, is simply due to the Limiter having a minimum lowest speed setting of 20mph in all circumstances.

3. There is no easy way to determine the actual state of charge (SOC) left in the battery at any time. Therefore, towards the end, I stopped the car a number of times so that, on restarting, I could see the charge percentage indicator displayed. From this I could calculate how much further I could go (at least, until I checked it again). At the end the SOC was down to 2%.

4. The Total Consumption indicator is misleading. Although it displays a decimal point it only increments in whole numbers so you don’t know exactly what your consumption is (e.g. it jumps from displaying “20.0 kWh” to “21.0 kWh” with nothing in-between).

5. While driving my Eco score had been 97-98/100 but at the very end it jumped down to 0 (perhaps a hint that running out of charge is not considered to be good driving!).

Distance, speed and consumption details (Image: T. Larkum)
Distance, speed and consumption details (Image: T. Larkum)

Although this attempt had achieved a good range I am at a loss to see how I could improve it much further – particularly to something approaching the Spanish record. Therefore I probably won’t attempt it again until I have a better route to try it on, particularly one with fewer hills and junctions.

Nonetheless it was nice to get in the ZOE the next day after it had been recharged and be told the predicted range available was 116 miles.

116 miles promised (Image: T. Larkum)
116 miles promised (Image: T. Larkum)

The Pain of Public Charging 2

Wolverton’s Dead Charging Post (Image: T. Larkum)
Wolverton’s Dead Charging Post (Image: T. Larkum)

In The Pain of Public Charging I described some of the general problems with the UK public charging infrastructure, and these were brought into sharp focus for me recently. Early in the day that I planned to attend Robert Llewellyn’s talk on electric cars in Bedford I knew that the range would be a stretch since it would be after a day at work in Milton Keynes. Therefore at lunchtime I headed out to top up, thinking I could get enough charge in an hour or so to give me some contingency.

First of all I went to a charging location that I had seen in Wolverton, in front of a supermarket. There were two parking spaces in front of the charging post, with a Nissan LEAF belonging to a local electric car club in one of them. Unfortunately, the other had a combustion car in it, so I was ICE’d.

Next I drove to nearby Stony Stratford which I had heard had a public charging point in the market square; in fact I had seen it marked on an online charge point map. After driving around the square a couple of times I parked up and walked into the public library. There I asked the staff about the charge point and they contacted the council staff only to report back that no charge points had yet been installed; the process had only got as far as designating a couple of parking spaces as suitable for a charge point.

The library staff, in an attempt to help, passed me the address of another charge point in Wolverton though they weren’t sure if it was operational or not. Of course, I eventually found the charge point only to find that it was unpowered.

Since by this time I was nearly back to the first charge point I decided to check it again. As I approached I could see it had an empty space. However, as I got close I saw an ICE car pull into it – nonetheless after a quick word with the driver, he relinquished the space and I took it. I tried my charge point cards on it, though, only to be told they weren’t recognised.

I called the telephone number on the charging post and explained the problem. They promised to look into it and call me back. Fifteen minutes later, having heard nothing, I called again only to be told that the charge post was exclusively for the use of the electric car club. I pointed out that it had no signs at all indicating that, but to no avail. They did offer me a charge if the situation was an emergency but I couldn’t honestly say it was, and told them that.

And so I gave up having exhausted my lunch hour, and then some, and having used up a fair bit of my precious range. That was the end of my attempt to charge up in the Milton Keynes area – a complete disaster, in fact, with a full mix of non-existent chargers, exclusive-use chargers, and non-functioning chargers.

The story doesn’t end there entirely, though. I drove carefully in Eco mode back to Northampton, and then on to Bedford for the talk. As ever, ZOE came through and I was able to stretch out the range so that as I left there was just enough range to get home. However, at the event I heard of a local charge point and decided to try it out. In fact, it turned out to be on the way home to Northampton, and was clearly visible at night as it sat in a car park next to the main road and gave out a blue glowing light.

Bedford’s Welcoming Charging Post (Image: T. Larkum)
Bedford’s Welcoming Charging Post (Image: T. Larkum)

I plugged in, waved one of my charger cards at it, and was immediately charging. I stayed connected for 10-15 minutes to give me 10 or so extra miles of contingency range and then headed home.

Bedford had showed how easy it can be to have straightforward, working charging infrastructure – something that Milton Keynes could learn from.

Electric Cars Are Rubbish. Aren’t They?

Robert confidently expounding on electric cars (Image: T. Larkum)
Robert confidently expounding on electric cars (Image: T. Larkum)

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of attending a talk by Robert Llewellyn, he of Fully Charged and Red Dwarf fame. He spoke at a Bedford Skeptics in the Pub event in Bedford, one of many talks on the topic of electric cars that he has given around the country, along with his trusty Nissan Leaf electric car.

I won’t describe the talk in detail here as there’s a good write-up on the Bedfordshire News site, and there’s also an audio recording of a previous talk on YouTube. Suffice to say it was enjoyable and amusing, and also thought provoking.

The Nissan LEAF is the star (Image: T. Larkum)
The Nissan LEAF is the star (Image: T. Larkum)

After the main talk Robert showed off his Nissan LEAF outside. In the Q&A session that followed back in the pub I spoke up in response to an audience question about when EVs would become cost effective for the average driver to say that I think that moment arrived with the Renault ZOE, since it is cheaper to buy than an equivalent Renault Clio as well as being cheaper to run. Later I found a group of interested people gathered around my ZOE in the car park so I just had to show it off too.

After the talk finished I had a chance to talk briefly to Robert before he headed back home (he also asked to have quick look around the ZOE). All in all it was a very enjoyable evening and I recommend anyone to look out for Robert’s talks – the next one is in Cambridge on 29 October.

Charging From a Domestic Socket Soon Available on ZOE

Renault ZOE with a domestic charging cable is pictured at the IAA international automobile show on September 11, 2013 in Frankfurt, Germany (Image: Getty Images)
Renault ZOE with a domestic charging cable is pictured at the IAA international automobile show on September 11, 2013 in Frankfurt, Germany (Image: Getty Images)

A complementary charger demonstrated by Renault on its Frankfurt Motor Show stand will make it possible to plug ZOE into a conventional domestic socket, thus gaining an extra charge when drivers are a long way from their main charging points.

The Wall Box nevertheless remains the main home charging solution since it is designed for faster, more ergonomic charging.: In the UK, for example, a free 7kW (32 amp) domestic Wall Box is supplied and installed at residential addresses for every new ZOE purchased, courtesy of a government charging grant covering 75% of the cost, to encourage the take-up of electric vehicles. The remainder is covered by Renault.

Scheduled for early 2014 (depending on the country) as an option or accessory, the complementary charger will be compatible with all ZOE vehicles currently on the road.

Source: Renault Press Kit Frankfurt Motor Show

Renault Bolloré partnership in electric vehicles

RENAULT BOLLORÉ PARTNERSHIP IN ELECTRIC VEHICLES

Bollore BlueCar (Image: Bollore.com)
Bollore BlueCar (Image: Bollore.com)

The Renault and Bolloré groups have signed a letter of intent to study the joint development of car-sharing solutions and the implementation of industrial and commercial cooperation agreements in the field of electric vehicles.

1 – Joint marketing of complete car-sharing solutions concerning the use of electric vehicles in the city.

Following the success of Autolib’ in 55 municipalities in and around the Paris region, and the contracts already won by the Bolloré Group in Lyon, Bordeaux and Indianapolis, the Renault and Bolloré groups will look at the possible founding of a joint venture to win and implement new projects in order to meet growing demand in France and on international markets for electric car-sharing services. In the first instance, Renault could join forces with the Bolloré Group by taking a stake in Bluely (Lyon) and Bluecub (Bordeaux).

2 – Bluecar production in France

The expected increase in the number of Bluecars – the existing 4-seater model – and the convertible model to be launched next June will lead to a rise in production. The two groups will look at the possible transfer of some production processes to the Renault group’s Dieppe plant, alongside the supply of parts and components by Renault.

3 – Development and production of a three-seater vehicle using a 20 kWh Bolloré battery

Autolib’, the world’s biggest electric-car sharing service to date, is now entering its third year in operation, and data show that three-quarters of rentals concern a maximum of three passengers. As a result, the two groups will look at the possible support that Renault could provide the Bolloré group for the development and production of a three-seater electric vehicle (3.1m long) with a range of over 120 miles.