First UK electric car club powered by Renault

ZOE and celebrities (Image: Renault)
ZOE and celebrities (Image: Renault)

Plug-in pioneers Renault will be powering the UK’s first 100 per cent electric city car club.  E-Car Club, which launched in East London today before a nationwide roll-out, will allow businesses to reduce the cost and footprint of their fleets, make electric vehicles available to local communities, and tackle the growing problem of urban air pollution.

E-Car club already has a fleet of five electric Renaults, with more due to arrive soon. This means that members have the opportunity to drive Renault ZOE, the world’s first affordable, purpose-built all-electric supermini on a pay-per-use basis.

Ben Fletcher, EV Product Manager at Renault UK, said:

“Programmes like E-Car Club are essential because they actually get people behind the wheel. Once you’ve driven an electric vehicle, very few people want to go back because it’s very responsive, quiet, relaxing and well suited to city driving.

On top of that there are real gains to be made in terms of emissions, especially with particulates and smog. By having electric vehicles in the city you stop that kind of pollution at the tail pipe and so have a direct positive impact on air quality and public health.”

The government is committed to making the UK the electric car capital of Europe and the Committee on Climate Change has stated that the ‘car club’ business model could be instrumental in challenging preconceptions and driving the wider adoption of EVs.

Renault currently leads the market in Europe, selling over 34,000 electric vehicles since its first model, Kangoo Van Z.E., hit showrooms in late 2011. It boasts a market share of 47% so far this year.

ZOE and Fluence ZE (Image: Renault)
ZOE and Fluence ZE (Image: Renault)

Striking supermini ZOE is spearheading the marque’s dominance, and is priced from just £13,995 on-the-road after grant, plus battery hire from £70 per month.

The ‘Range OptimiZEr’ package of three major innovations (bi-modal regenerative braking, heat pump and Michelin EnergyTM E-V tyres) helps ZOE deliver the longest range of any purely electric vehicle in its class –  a considerable 130 miles. In real world driving, this is likely to be circa 90 miles, depending on driving style, road and weather conditions, making ZOE a really practical proposition for E-Car Club’s users.

Those renting a ZOE from E-Car Club also won’t have to wait long for the car to charge; thanks to its Chameleon charger, charging can take as little as 30 minutes at a Rapid Charge station.  Charging in one hour is possible at Fast Charge stations, and the car will charge in just 3-4 hours at a standard 7kW public charge point.

They will also be sure of where they’re going and fully entertained on the journey; ZOE’s R-Link comprises a seven-inch embedded tablet in the dashboard with touchscreen display, steering wheel-mounted controls and voice recognition. It also features a connected store giving access to specific apps and services, as well as email and tweets.

Finally, for added peace of mind, ZOE’s ‘Z.E. Voice’ warns pedestrians of the vehicle’s approach up to speeds of 18 mph – giving drivers greater confidence and helping ZOE stand out even more.

The E-Car Club was founded in 2011, with investment from Sustainable Venture Partners and the Technology Strategy Board, to offer easy, affordable access to low carbon transport for both businesses and communities. The mixed-use model brings together the needs of corporate customers that have costly and carbon-intensive fleet requirements, with those in the local community who want easy and affordable access to low carbon vehicles.

The East London launch builds on the success of two pilot projects: a community-led project in Milton Keynes which started in October 2012 and a partnership with Luton Borough Council earlier this year. The company will be opening similar schemes in Oxford, University of Hertfordshire and Maylands Business Park in the coming months.

Minister of State for Transport Baroness Kramer, MP for Poplar and Limehouse Jim Fitzpatrick, electric vehicle enthusiast Robert Llewellyn (best known as Kryten from Red Dwarf), and Babu Bhattacherjee, Director of Communities and Neighbourhoods at Poplar HARCA were among the guests joining local residents and members of the E-Car Club team for the launch.

Nissan to Lead (ZOE Compatible) Rapid Charge Network Project

European Commission-backed project will establish EV-friendly rapid charge network running the length and breadth of the UK

Nissan to Lead Rapid Charge Network Project (Image: Nissan)
Nissan to Lead Rapid Charge Network Project (Image: Nissan)

ROLLE, Switzerland (21 October 2013) – Nissan is leading a consortium which aims to establish a network of rapid chargers for electric vehicles running the full length and breadth of the United Kingdom and Ireland.

When complete, a total of 74 rapid chargers will have been installed, covering more than 1,100kms of major trunk routes and providing EV-friendly links to five seaports and five international airports.

The project, named Rapid Charge Network (RCN), was presented at the Trans European Transport Network (TEN-T) event in Tallinn, Estonia, which was hosted by European Commission Vice President Siim Kallas. Estonia was the first country in the world to open a nationwide EV fast-charging network.

Funding for the Rapid Charge Network (RCN) project is being led by Nissan – maker of the world’s best selling electric vehicle, the Nissan LEAF – is co‑financed by the European Union through the TEN-T programme, with further contributions from fellow consortium members Renault, BMW and Volkswagen and ESB Ireland’s Electricity Supply Board. It also draws on the network expertise of Zero Carbon Futures and Newcastle University

“Nissan is delighted to be leading this important initiative. The UK’s Rapid Charge Network will provide a vital sense of security for all EV drivers, not just those using the award-winning Nissan LEAF, as well as helping to promote the advantages of zero emission mobility to others,” said Olivier Paturet, General Manager Zero Emission Strategy & Corporate Planning.

Running on two priority road axes on the mainland, the network will link major ports and cities including Stranraer, Liverpool, Holyhead, Birmingham, Felixstowe, Leeds and Kingston upon Hull with connections to existing networks in Dublin and Belfast in Eire and Northern Ireland.

Significantly, the rapid chargers being deployed will be the first state-of-the-art multi-standard units in public operation in Europe. This will ensure that every EV owner in the country can undertake long journeys secure in the knowledge that they will never be far from a rapid charger no matter what brand of car they drive. The units are compatible with cars using 44kW DC CCS, 44 kW DC Chademo or 43 kW AC systems (as used by Renault ZOE). Installation of the rapid chargers is due to be completed by the end of 2014.

By providing a network of chargers for EV drivers, the RCN project is designed to encourage further take up of electric vehicles in a bid to further decarbonize road transport.

The network will also be used to gather strategic information from users, including customer charging behavior and changes in mobility patterns, to help plan the roll-out future rapid charging infrastructure in member states across Europe.

The RCN project is one of 30 priority transport projects across Europe identified by TEN-T. The Projects were chosen according to the added value they offer to the European community and their contribution to the sustainable development of transport systems. They include rail, mixed rail-road, road and inland waterway projects, as well as a ‘motorways of the sea’ scheme.

For more information: Rapid Charge Network

Maximising Range in a ZOE 2

A guest post by Umberto (in response to Maximising Range in a ZOE by Nosig)

Renault ZOE on the road (Image: The Green Car Website)
Renault ZOE on the road (Image: The Green Car Website)

The major drawback of an electric vehicle (EV) is range, so it’s a good idea to take some time to get a bit more information about the energy consumption of your EV and how to make the most out of your charge.

In general and on level ground there are three major sources of resistance that consume your valuable energy:

  1. the mass of the car (the inertia)
  2. the rolling resistance of your tyres
  3. your internal rotating parts and air drag

While the losses due to the mass of your car can partly be regained during coasting or braking with the recuperation feature of your EV, the energy you have to put in against rolling resistance and air drag is lost forever. These two are the so called irreversible resistances.

The rolling resistance of your tyres and your internal rotating parts (motor, bearings) is more or less independent of your driving style (speed) but – concerning the tyres – a mixture of wheel size, brand and the air pressure you put in. ZOE comes with an optimised standard tyre (see the BMW i3 tyre size for an extremely optimised tyre) so it should be good practice to keep your air pressure high (2.5 – 3 bar) and check it regularly to reduce this resistance.

The air drag is defined by the shape of your car, how the underbody is made and (again) what tyres you use. Renault claims an air drag of 0.75 square meters which is not too hot compared to a similar sized Mercedes B-class with 0.63 square meters. Even more important, air drag rises quadratically with your speed – driving twice as fast creates four times more air resistance – so air drag becomes the highest among the driving resistances around 60 to 80 km/h (40-50 mph).

MyRenaultZoe forum user Nosig posted some data from his dashboard while driving at constant speeds that I used to create a chart (see Figure 1). On the horizontal axis you see the speed in km/h and on the left vertical axis is the Power in kW.

Figure 1: Renault ZOE Power vs Speed (Image: Umberto)
Figure 1: Renault ZOE Power vs Speed (Image: Umberto)

The yellow line shows the power that ZOE consumes at the given speed based on Nosig’s data. The blue line shows the power ZOE needs to compensate air drag.

The orange line belongs to the right horizontal axis and shows the portion of air drag power compared to the total power. Since air drag rises quadratically and the other resistances remain more or less stable you would expect the orange graph to rise and rise with speed. But as you can see clearly it does not.

Up to 100 km/h (62 mph) the graph shows a constant rise but with higher speeds the portion of air drag power remains stable. So there must be an additional loss of energy coming up at around 100 km/h (62 mph).

EV drivers love their electrical motors for having full power and torque from standstill but even these efficient motors (more than 90% efficiency compared to 30-40% for an internal combustion engine) have their limits. From a particular point you have to make some compromises to increase the revs furthers. Due to a limited maximum voltage in the motor you have to reduce the magnetic field to reach a higher revolution (field suppression). This decreases the efficiency of the motor. We can show this in a diagram (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Torque vs Revolutions per Minute (RPM) (Image: Hybrid-Autos.info)
Figure 2: Torque vs Revolutions per Minute (RPM) (Image: Hybrid-Autos.info)

This diagram describes a slightly different motor to that installed in the ZOE, but we can get important information from it. You see that at 2/3rds of the max RPM the energy efficiency decreases. Let’s take a look at our ZOE to see if we can find similar figures.

ZOE has a max speed of 135 km/h (84 mph). If we assume that this speed is at the max RPM of the motor and with the knowledge that with one revolution of a ZOE tyre the car goes about 1.89 meters (6.2 feet), the wheel has to rotate 1190 times a minute.

From the Renault website we learn that ZOE has a fixed transmission ratio of 9.32 between the motor and the wheel so the motor RPM is 11090 at full speed. On the Renault spec sheet the motor is claimed to have a max power output from 3000 RPM to 11300 RPM (which would be 138 km/h or 86 mph). 2/3rds of this max RPM would be around 7500 which equates to around 92 km/h (57 mph) which fits perfectly to our observations above.

As we all know, ZOE is limited to 96 km/h (60 mph) in Eco mode which is another hint that we are on the right track.

So, to maximise your range you should avoid speeds of more than 60 mph because in addition to the regular resistances that any car faces you’ll encounter an internal inefficiency of your drive train.

Renault’s record Scottish Car of the Year trophy haul

RENAULT’S RECORD SCOTTISH CAR OF THE YEAR TROPHY HAUL

ZOE (Image: Renault)
ZOE (Image: Renault)

Renault drove off with a record hat-trick of trophies at the Scottish Car of the Year awards in Glasgow last night.

Clio triumphed as best small car, Captur was named top crossover and ZOE completed a high voltage evening for the French marque after being crowned electric car of the year. Combined with sister brand, Dacia, according to the judges, it’s the first time a manufacturer has taken so many accolades in the 15-year history of SCOTY.

Collecting the awards at the glittering ceremony held at the Thistle Hotel, Mark Potter, Director, Northern Region, Renault UK, said:

“To win three trophies is fantastic recognition for Renault north of the Border. We’ve had a great start to the year, especially with the arrival of our latest three superminis and the refreshed Scénic range. The greater shift towards economical, efficient cars is where our cars are really shining, and I’m delighted to accept these awards which prove that we’re really hitting the mark.”

The Scottish Car of the Year Awards is run and judged by the 15 full members of the Association of Scottish Motoring Writers. Its president, Alisdair Suttie, said Renault is enjoying a “new-found confidence on the back of some impressive new releases” at the event, which also featured the iconic Clio – the company’s best-selling model, which continues to show-off its Va Va Voom.

He added: “Clio proves small really can be beautiful, with high fashion combined with low running costs. It also offers plenty of equipment and space mixed with real driving appeal.

“Renault Captur’s desirable good design mixes with space for the family plus some of the most efficient engines in the segment. These qualities ensured victory against a broad mix of models , some two-wheel-drive, some four and some offering the choice of either.”

Spiralling fuel costs and concerns about climate change have seen plug-in electric cars gaining an increasingly stronger presence in recent times, and once again the judges picked Renault’s flagship electric model, ZOE, as best of the bunch.

Alisdair said:

“Cost has always been a problem with electric vehicles, but an innovative battery lease solution makes this year’s winner a genuine alternative to a conventionally powered supermini.”

Earlier this year, Clio and ZOE picked up trophies for best small car and technology at the Fleet World Honours. Electric supermini ZOE was also named the most environmentally-friendly fleet car at the well-established BusinessCar ‘Techies’, while chic and cheerful newcomer Captur landed Renault a hat-trick of Next Green Car Awards.

For more information on the prize-winning trio visit www.renault.co.uk.

The Pain of Public Charging 3

Dead charge point at Weston-on-the-Green (Image: T. Larkum)
Dead charge point at Weston-on-the-Green (Image: T. Larkum)

I have written a number of times recently of the issues I’ve encountered when trying to use public charging points (e.g. Excellent Adventure, Bogus Journey, ZOE Promises 100, Pain of Public Charging 2) but the pain continues. Last Sunday I took the family for the first time in the ZOE to visit the in-laws. They live in Kidlington near Oxford and the distance is about 45 miles each way.

Even though the ZOE can manage 100+ miles when coaxed, its range is nearer 70 miles at speed and therefore a charge en route was the prudent approach. As usual for a new route I investigated the options available using Open Charge Map and Zap-Map. I came up with Plan A being the Ecotricity 43kW fast charger at Peartree roundabout, with Plan B (in case the Plan A charger was out of action) being the charger at the Nissan dealer in Kidlington, and Plan C being the 7kW charger at Weston-on-the-Green Little Chef just outside Kidlington.

Since the Plan C location was on the way, on the A34, we actually called in there first. We found a charge point looking neglected in the car park and parked up. It didn’t take long to realise it wasn’t powered up. I went into the restaurant to talk to the staff. Although the lady at reception seemed more interesting in offering me a restaurant booking than answering my questions about the charge point, she did tell me that the charge point was due to be removed as the restaurant had undergone a change of management to become the ‘Eat & Go’. Not a very encouraging attitude.

After delivering the family to Kidlington I headed out to Peartree. To cut a long story short, I found the Ecotricity fast charger with no problem near the main services building. It worked fine and recharged the car in about 40 minutes, during which I looked around the services shops and sat and read. In fact I came out of the shops just in time to see a Nissan LEAF pull away from the other side of the charger – I hadn’t noticed it before so I wonder if it had just parked there without charging. We exchanged waves!

Fast charging at Peartree (Image: T. Larkum)
Fast charging at Peartree (Image: T. Larkum)

Towards the end of the charge the ZOE spent about 10 minutes showing 99% charge so eventually I got impatient and disconnected from the charger. That caused an error on the charger and I had to reswipe my access card to reset it, but no harm done.

Now fully charged and feeling more confident I decided to investigate the Plan B charger just out of interest. I found the Nissan garage fine, with its large Chademo charger and two low power chargers. They were all blocked in by LEAFs that were plugged in to charge. By this time on Sunday afternoon the garage was closed so I couldn’t have accessed the chargers; however, I imagine in office hours the staff would have been co-operative.

LEAFs charging at Nissan Kidlington (Image: T. Larkum)
LEAFs charging at Nissan Kidlington (Image: T. Larkum)

I was interested to find a Renault garage with charger opposite the Nissan one. This seemed odd as the Nissan one shows on charge maps but not the Renault one. Perhaps it just indicates that the Renault one is newer.

Renault Kidlington with charger at left (Image: T. Larkum)
Renault Kidlington with charger at left (Image: T. Larkum)

Our experiences of the Weston charger (showing on charge maps but not working) and the Renault charger (working but not showing on charge maps) seem to be typical of the patchy state of the charger infrastructure in the UK at present. We have a remarkably broad and dense network of chargers across the country given the current low uptake of EVs. It compares well with the US, for example, which has far poorer provision of public chargers yet much greater sales of EVs.

However the potential of the UK charger point network is severely blunted by the support it receives – charge points are often not working, and there are many instances of chargers not being shown on public maps, or being shown on public maps but not yet having been actually installed. It’s the usual muddle-through approach – politicians want to be seen to be supporting EVs but they don’t follow-through. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised since politicians never actually seem to drive EVs themselves, a typical case of ‘do as I say not as I do’.