Forrest, the social housing regeneration specialist, has added two electric vehicles to its fleet following an extensive fleet review.
The two Renault ZOEs will be based at Forrest’s headquarters at Dodd Lane, Bolton and will be available to staff as pool cars during the day, and the intention is that they will be used for shorter journeys and site visits in the local area.
The addition of the vehicles follows the firm’s decision to update its fleet following an internal review that showed a switch to newer, greener models would produce considerable cost and emission savings.
Last spring saw the firm replace a tranche of its older fleet with 35 newer, more environmentally friendly vehicles, which included 20 Ford Transit vans, nine Ford Fiesta 1.6 EcoBoost cars and six Fiat Doblo Cargo Maxi 1.6 MultiJet models. In total, 130 cars and vans will be added to the fleet over the next two years.
Vicki Lee, quality and environmental manager, Forrest, said:
‘With the introduction of the two electric vehicles we are upping our commitment to be an environmentally conscious company.
‘We have already made significant headway in reducing our carbon output, and will continue to ramp up our green efforts as more vehicles are delivered and new technologies introduced.’
After our disastrous experiences with charging point unreliability over the holidays (just before and on Christmas Day) we had a significant loss of confidence in the public charging infrastructure. When it came time to drive to the airport for a trip abroad for New Year we had some soul searching to do.
I decided to go ahead with taking the ZOE, but with a very different approach to charging since the previous one had been so unsuccessful. Previously I assumed a typical range of 80 miles and looked for one or more chargers close to the point at which I would be running low on charge.
The new strategy was a two-pronged approach:
Given that charging could not be relied on, always drive in Eco mode and as carefully as possible so as to maximise range, and to maximise the amount of charge remaining at all times (i.e. ‘assume the worst’, that it may be necessary to go hunting for chargers). To make this work meant leaving earlier than we otherwise would so we could travel more slowly and consistently without worrying about being late for our flight.
Plan ‘opportunity charging’ – i.e. don’t just charge ‘at the far end’ but charge at each fast charger passed on the way there. This idea I think of as ‘farblue charging’ as it was suggested by farblue, a member of the forum, in writing about his ‘big adventure to London’.
In general accept whatever charge is provided, even if it’s not what you want. In other words, if a fast charger (43kW) only gives you a medium charge (22kW) then use that rather than go on further to the next fast charger – ‘a bird in the hand’ approach.
We set off from Northampton at 0825 on 28 December headed down the M1. Our flight to Vienna was from Heathrow at 1230. By 0845 we were at Newport Pagnell South services, still with 75% charge, just to get an opportunity charge at the Ecotricity 43kW fast charger. On the first attempt the charger reported an ‘anomaly’. On the second attempt it started charging but with one hour predicted until completion. Given that the car didn’t need much charging this implied that it was charging at a very low rate, probably 7kW, which was too slow in the circumstances. We used the facilities, unplugged at 0905 (with just 10% charge gained) and headed south again.
Following the same approach we stopped at the next services, Toddington. Here we found a ZOE owner named Terry trying unsuccessfully to charge, and concluded the charger was broken. After using the facilities, and just before heading out on the road, we decided to test the charger ourselves anyway. Oddly enough it worked, though not at maximum power (perhaps 22kW). We took advantage of it anyway and charged from 0940 to 1020, increasing the charge from 66% to 97%. I cut it short since the last few percent always take disproportionately long.
The original plan included contingency to continue along the M1 past the fast chargers at Edgeware and IKEA Wembley. However, since we now had plenty of charge, and time was getting on, we drove straight to the airport. We arrived with a couple of hours to go before the flight which was not as much as we would have liked (by the time we got through security there wasn’t time to eat) but was good enough that we weren’t worried about being late for the flight.
We returned on 2 January and picked up the car (I had deliberately chosen long term parking where you don’t have to hand over your car keys as I was concerned about having someone new trying to drive the ZOE). Although we still had about 30 miles of range, the first order of business was to fill up. Ironically there is a fast charger at Heston services on the M4 just a few miles from Heathrow but you have to drive all the way into London to pick up the start of the motorway and head back out again in order to get to it (there is no westbound charger). Anyway, that’s what we did.
As before it seemed to charge at about 22kW but after a hot chocolate and a break we were ready to go on. Our plan was to return to Northampton via Kidlington (due to a family birthday) so we headed up the M25 and M40. Following the same strategy we called in at the 22kW chargers at Waterstock just outside Oxford on our way. They worked fine, after which we had plenty of charge to get to Kidlington and then back home to Northampton.
The ‘little and often’ strategy had worked out well for us. However, there are costs to this strategy that are important to consider:
You will likely charge more often, and there is a time cost to doing so (pulling into services, connecting up, etc.).
You will spend more of your usable range detouring to charge.
Charging will be slower – charging an empty battery can be more than twice as fast as for a full battery, so overall you will get more charge per minute when filling an emptier battery.
In conclusion, however, the new strategy worked well as we had none of the panic or disrupted plans that result from finding not working a charger you are relying on. I will therefore continue to use this strategy until I feel the charging infrastructure is good enough to rely on.
The annual ‘best in class cars’ table that has just been published by the independent body Euro NCAP lists Renault ZOE as the best supermini (electric and internal combustion-engined cars combined) of all those it evaluated last year in terms of safety performance. This accolade, which comes on top of the maxiumum five-star rating achieved by the model in March 2013, stands out as further reassurance for ZOE’s customers and an eloquent reward for Renault’s safety engineering experts.
In the course of Renault ZOE’s development, the mission not to compromise on safety in any way could not have been clearer. The objective was for the new 100% electric hatchback car to be as safe as the brand’s internal combustion-engined models. It consequently benefited fully from Renault’s extensive expertise and know-how in the realms of passive and active safety. From its initial design to its exhaustive testing phase, nothing was left to chance. In addition to Euro NCAP requirements, careful attention was paid to two areas that are specific to electric vehicles, namely their battery and their little noise they make when running.
Given that batteries are as sensitive as a conventional fuel tank, safety specialists focused particularly on this part of the car. ZOE’s battery casing was reinforced to protect the modules inside, while the wiring was routed to prevent the risk of damage. The battery itself was subjected to a comprehensive range of tests, including exposure to flames, immersion, combustion, electrical overload, short circuiting, compression, dropping from a height and the so-called ‘nail penetration test’ (which involves driving a nail into a cell). Following the car’s crash test, the battery remained intact but an automatic circuit breaker was incorporated in the system as an added precautionary measure.
Meanwhile, electric vehicles make very little noise at speeds of up to 30kph, so ZOE is equipped with Z.E. Voice, a sound audible to pedestrians that warns of the vehicle’s approach when it is travelling from 1 to 30kph (at a standstill, the car is completely silent).
This sound was custom engineered to achieve an identity that mirrors ZOE’s character and was developed in association with sound perception and design specialists from France’s Acoustic/Music Research and Coordination Institute (IRCAM). Drivers can actually choose from three different sounds, dubbed ‘Pure’, ‘Glam’ and ‘Sport’. They are also free to cut the sound at the press of a switch, although it automatically resumes the next time they turn on the car’s motor.
The 100% electric Spark-Renault SRT_01E single-seater race car performed its first public demonstration run in Las Vegas, USA, on Monday 6 January
The event was held in conjunction with the International CES, a global consumer electronics and technology trade show
Following its presentation at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2013, and its debut track run at La Ferté Gaucher, near Paris, France, the Spark-Renault SRT_01E broke new ground by making its first dynamic public appearance
The Spark-Renault SRT_01E made its first dynamic public appearance in Las Vegas, USA, in front of a crowd of technology fans at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. The car was in the hands of Brazilian racing driver Lucas di Grassi who drove along the Las Vegas Strip before moving on to Mandalay Bay in the centre of the city.
The demonstration run was confirmation that the visionary idea of fully-electric single-seater race cars is today very much a reality to which Renault, as a technical partner, has made a significant contribution thanks not only to its winning record in motor racing, but also to the lead it enjoys in the world of electric vehicles.
Renault Sport Technologies CEO Patrice Ratti, said:
“Everybody at Renault is very proud that we were able to show the 100% electric Spark-Renault race car in driving conditions for a very tech-savvy crowd in Las Vegas. The work that has been done by all technical partners over the last few months has been fantastic and the car lives up to Renault’s high competition standards. We are very happy about the result so far and our engineers will keep working with Spark, Dallara, McLaren, Williams and Michelin to further improve the Spark-Renault SRT_01E so that all teams can compete with an amazing 100% electric race car when the championship begins.”