All posts by Trevor Larkum

Software engineer and electric vehicle advocate

Zoe News June 2012 – Distance Record, Leipzig, Confidential Blog, Photoshoot, Reader Review, Goodwood

World EV Distance Record

Zoe in World Distance Record Attempt (Photo: Renault)
Zoe in World Distance Record Attempt (Photo: Renault)

On 1 June the Zoe set a new world record for the longest distance travelled in 24 hours by a production electric car. Zoe completed 363 laps of the Aubevoye speed ring in Normandy, a distance of 1,618 km, beating the former record of 1,280 km by 25%.

Two Renault Zoe vehicles set out on the speed ring at the Aubevoye technical centre (CTA) in Normandy. Fifteen drivers from Aubevoye, Cléon, Sandouville, Flins, Douai and Grand Couronne took turns at the wheel, driving and charging as necessary. Twenty-four hours later, the two Zoe vehicles crossed the finishing line, with mileage of 1,618 km and 1,506 km respectively.

“Using its Caméléon charger ZOE was able to be fast-charged at 43 kW, regaining 80% of battery capacity in under thirty minutes. This challenge was also made possible by the best-in-class NEDC range of 210 km (between 100 and 150 km in real conditions, depending on conditions of use). Overall, the finalist ZOE was fast-charged 18 times in 24 hours.”

Presumably the charging was arranged for maximum range efficiency, so that minimum time was spent charging and maximum time driving; therefore the cars would not have been charged to 100% each time (since the last 10-20% takes a disproportionately long time). Assuming the finalist Zoe started fully charged, it used at most 19 full charges to achieve its range of 1,618km, i.e. it went more than 85km on each charge. That is a significant achievement where each charge is less than the maximum possible.

Leipzig Motor Show

Zoe at Leipzig Motor Show (Image: Auto.de)
Zoe at Leipzig Motor Show (Image: Auto.de)

Early in June the Zoe had its German debut, at the Leipzig Auto Mobil International show.

ZOE Confidential Blog

On 8 June Renault published the first instalment of its ‘ZOE Confidential’ blog, an interview with Jean Semeriva, the designer of the Zoe exterior.

Jean Semeriva (right) - Zoe Designer (Photo: Renault)
Jean Semeriva (right) – Zoe Designer (Photo: Renault)

Some interesting quotes from the article:

“The main idea is that ZOE doesn’t have corners, and when the movement suggested by a line comes to an end, it is replaced by another.”

“In absolute terms we didn’t have a lot of constraints stemming from the fact that ZOE is an electric car or city car. We had to raise the seats slightly – and the roof, too – so we could place the battery under the floor. But we worked hand in hand with engineers to minimise this kind of impact. Electric motors also take up a little less place than regular engines, which played a role in the overall design. We really aimed for simplicity.”

Photoshoot

Zoe Zen Interior (Photo: Auto News World)
Zoe Zen Interior (Photo: Auto News World)

On 10 June two different versions of the Zoe featured in a photoshoot on AutoNewsWorld.com. As well as providing artistic views of the exterior, there are good, clear photographs of the interior.

WhatCar Reader Review

Zoe Reader Review (Image: WhatCar)
Zoe Reader Review (Image: WhatCar)

In May WhatCar invited its readers to volunteer to review the Zoe, and on 11 June published a Reader Review video. Overall the reviewers seem very happy with what they saw.

Goodwood Festival of Speed

Zoe and Electric Renault 5 at Goodwood (Photo: Renault)
Zoe and Electric Renault 5 at Goodwood (Photo: Renault)

To complete a busy month, Zoe had its first showing to the British public at the Goodwood Festival of Speed from 29 June to 1 July. For 2012 Renault was back as sponsor and showed off a number of key vehicles, including the 1935 Viva Grand Sport, the Alpine A110, Megane R.S. and Clio R.S. The Zoe was displayed on a stand along with an electric Renault 5 from 1974.

EcoVelocity Show 5-13 May 2012

EcoVelocity Show May 2012 (Photo: T. Larkum)
EcoVelocity Show May 2012 (Photo: T. Larkum)

I visited the EcoVelocity Motor Show on 13 May to try out some hybrid and electric cars first hand. This ‘Green Motor Show’ covers all low carbon cars, from economical petrol cars through hybrids to full electric cars:

“The low carbon market is developing and improving at a fantastic rate and we are very excited to be supporting the shift towards a brighter, cleaner motoring future. With new vehicle technologies emerging rapidly, EcoVelocity is the ideal event to discover and sample many of them. We also hope you’ll discover the many benefits and pleasures of owning a low carbon vehicle including substantial grants, road tax and congestion charge exemption to name a few, as well as reducing your environmental impact.”

To me there were two disappointments to the show. Firstly it was small, and I imagine it only had as many visitors as it did by being run alongside the much larger Grand Designs Live show. Secondly, there was no Renault stand, though I did manage to see a Kangoo electric van on the EDF stand, and a Twizy quadricycle in the Grand Designs hall. Nonetheless, it was very useful to get to see so many EVs and hybrids together in one place, and have the opportunity to test drive a selection of them.

Renault Twizy at Grand Designs Live Show (Photo: T. Larkum)
Renault Twizy at Grand Designs Live Show (Photo: T. Larkum)

This event was the first time I saw a number of electric cars and plug-in hybrids ‘in the flesh’. There was a ‘supercar’ stand near the entrance that featured a Tesla Roadster EV, a Delta Motorsport E4 Coupe EV, a Lightning GT EV and a Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid.

Tesla Roadster and other Electric Supercars at EcoVelocity 2012 (Photo: T. Larkum)
Tesla Roadster and other Electric Supercars at EcoVelocity 2012 (Photo: T. Larkum)

Further in there were dedicated stands as follows:

    • Citroën, including the C-Zero EV (a rebadged Mitsubishi i-MIEV)
Citroen C-Zero at EcoVelocity 2012 (Photo: T. Larkum)
Citroen C-Zero at EcoVelocity 2012 (Photo: T. Larkum)
    • Vauxhall, including the Ampera plug-in hybrid (a rebadged Chevrolet Volt) and a RAKe quadricycle
Vauxhall Ampera at EcoVelocity 2012 (Photo: T. Larkum)
Vauxhall Ampera at EcoVelocity 2012 (Photo: T. Larkum)
    • Nissan, showcasing the LEAF EV
Nissan LEAF at EcoVelocity 2012 (Photo: T. Larkum)
Nissan LEAF at EcoVelocity 2012 (Photo: T. Larkum)
    • Chevrolet, including the Volt plug-in hybrid
Chevrolet Volt at EcoVelocity 2012 (Photo: T. Larkum)
Chevrolet Volt at EcoVelocity 2012 (Photo: T. Larkum)
    • Mia, with a selection of Mia EVs
Mia EV at EcoVelocity 2012 (Photo: T. Larkum)
Mia EV at EcoVelocity 2012 (Photo: T. Larkum)
    • EDF Energy, including a Renault Kangoo Z.E. electric van and a Peugeot iOn EV (a rebadged Mitsubishi i-MIEV).
Renault Kangoo Van at EcoVelocity 2012 (Photo: T. Larkum)
Renault Kangoo Van at EcoVelocity 2012 (Photo: T. Larkum)
  • Peugeot, including the 508 – the first example of a hybrid diesel.

There were also some smaller supplier stands that featured EVs (including a Mitsubishi i-MIEV, another Tesla Roadster and another Nissan LEAF).

The best thing about this event was that it included a dedicated track for test driving the various vehicles being shown – in fact, a small under cover track leading to a long road circuit around Docklands. Although test drives were intended to be booked in advance I managed to get some through a combination of arriving early, and revisiting stands regularly checking for ‘no shows’. My first drive was in a Nissan LEAF EV and it was very enjoyable. It was my first drive in any EV, so I was concerned it might turn out to be a disappointment but it was as smooth, quiet and ‘high-tech’ as I had hoped.

Nissan LEAF - My First EV Test Drive (Photo: T. Larkum)
Nissan LEAF – My First EV Test Drive (Photo: T. Larkum)

Next I drove the Vauxhall Ampera plug-in hybrid. I must say I was very impressed with it – just getting into the driver’s seat gave a feeling of climbing into ‘Starship Enterprise’. Personally I’m keen on getting a fully electric car, but I can certainly see the temptation of an Ampera or Volt. It was very smooth and effortless to drive, certainly an experience apart from an ordinary petrol car.

Vauxhall Ampera - My First Plug-in Hybrid Test Drive (Photo: T. Larkum)
Vauxhall Ampera – My First Plug-in Hybrid Test Drive (Photo: T. Larkum)

Finally I got to drive a Peugeot 508 diesel hybrid. It was impressive, particularly the smoothness of the transition from electric to diesel power, but having experienced the ‘EV’ experience of a plug-in I have no interest in ‘old fashioned’ soft hybrids, even though I can appreciated the cleverness of the technology.

To conclude the day I attended presentations by Robert Llewellyn (well known for his EV advocacy, and Fully Charged podcasts) and Andy Heiron (Head of Electric Vehicle Programme – Renault UK).

I have put a full set of photographs of the day online on Flickr.

Zoe News May 2012 – Koskas Interview

Zoe at Paris Motor Show (Photo: AutoNews.com)
Zoe at Paris Motor Show (Photo: AutoNews.com)

On 11 May Automotive News Europe gave details of an interview conducted with Thierry Koskas, Renault’s EV Project Director where it was said that Renault expects the Zoe to far outsell the Nissan LEAF (the current world’s best-selling EV) in Europe. With an annual production capacity for the Zoe of 150,000 units, the subcompact would be the volume model among Renault’s four-model EV range, which includes the Fluence large sedan, Kangoo car-derived van and scooter-style Twizy.

Koskas told Automotive News Europe:

“The Zoe is the first electric car in Europe that will address the needs of the mass-consumer market.

“The Zoe is a next-generation car. It is launching two years later than the Leaf. The Zoe will benefit from technologies that the Leaf does not have, such as a braking energy-recovery system, a heat pump, and a special series of energy efficient tires.”

The interview was also reported on 4 Wheels News.

My Registration for a Renault Zoe

Zoe Page on Renault Website
Zoe Page on Renault Website

On 1 May 2012 I took the plunge and registered for a Renault Zoe. I had toyed with the idea for a couple of months – in fact I don’t know why I took so long to decide. The process is simple (in the UK at least) – just follow the link on the Renault website (shown above). You get a small popup windows that says:

View the benefits of reserving online
Become a member and benefit from exclusive advantages such as:

  • A dedicated e-newsletter with exclusive content
  • An online area dedicated to all those who have reserved a Z.E.
  • Visuals never revealed to the public
  • Videos with tips from the people who designed ZOE.
  • Hot news
  • Exclusive goodies
  • For just £49, reserve a Renault ZOE and join the Z.E. community!

along with a link to detailed Terms and conditions. You then get to the ‘configuration’ screen where you choose the options you want on your Zoe:

Zoe Configuration Page
Zoe Configuration Page

The options are:

  • Zoe Version: Expression, Dynamique – Zen or Dynamique – Intens (more on these elsewhere on the site)
  • Colour: Glacier – White (no charge), Arctic White (£600), Energy blue (£460), Neptune Grey (£460) or Azur Blue (£300)
  • Wheels: 15″ Arobase trims (no charge), 16″ Aerotronic alloys (£310) or 17″ ‘Tech Run’ alloys (£620)

The only choice for the battery hire is the ‘BL Subscription’ of £70pa for 36 months, 6000 miles/year – presumably this can be changed at a later date as it’s a very low mileage for the average car owner.

Finally it remained to put in personal details and payment method. Shortly afterwards I got my confirmation by email:

Zoe Reservation Confirmation Email
Zoe Reservation Confirmation Email

So I am officially the 172nd person to reserve a Renault ZOE (in the UK, I believe).

Zoe News April 2012 – Michelin Tyres, Fleet Show Debut, Voice Samples

Michelin Tyres

Michelin Tyres for Zoe (Image: Michelin Tyres)
Michelin Tyres for Zoe (Image: Michelin Tyres)

On 11 April 2012 Michelin gave details of the tyres that would equip the ZOE, as previously announced by Renault at the ZOE Preview launch:

“All Renault ZOE models equipped with 15 and 16-inch tyres will be fitted with the new MICHELIN ENERGY™ E-V tyres. These innovative products are in line with the carmaker’s Range OptimiZEr approach for the Renault ZOE, which integrates an array of innovations designed to improve the vehicle’s range in all driving conditions. In near-urban use, for example, the MICHELIN ENERGY™ E-V tyres increase the ZOE’s range by up to 6%, depending on the type of use.

The tire plays a key role in vehicle energy consumption. Tyres account for up to 30% of the energy consumed by an electric powertrain. With each rotation of the wheel, a tire is deformed when it comes into contact with the road. As its structure is deformed, the components heat up and some of the energy transmitted by the engine is lost. Reducing this heat build-up also reduces energy consumption, but the technologies developed by Michelin go much further. While the MICHELIN ENERGY™ E-V tire heats up little when driving, thus reducing energy consumption, the rubber in the contact patch heats up quickly when the brakes are applied, thereby shortening braking distances.”

It is interesting to note the mixed spelling of ‘tire’/‘tyre’, presumably evidence of editing for different markets.

EV & Low CO2 Fleet Show

Renault Zoe at EV & Low CO2 Fleet Show (Image: EVFleetShow.co.uk)
Renault Zoe at EV & Low CO2 Fleet Show (Image: EVFleetShow.co.uk)

The Zoe made its first showing as a production car for the British market on the Renault stand at the EV & Low CO2 Fleet Show. This took place on 18 April at Silverstone, as reported in the Renault Business magazine:

“The Renault Zoe and the other vehicles in the Renault Z.E. range made their first appearance at the Fleet World EV & Low CO2 Fleet Show in April, marking the first time all four models had been shown together in the UK in production form. Held at the newly opened Silverstone Wing at the world-famous race circuit, the event was aimed at giving senior fleet decision-makers the opportunity to explore and test-drive the latest electric, hybrid and low-carbon technologies and discuss them with industry experts during seminar sessions.

“Kangoo Van Z.E. and Fluence Z.E. saloon were both available to drive, while delegates relished their first opportunity to get behind the wheel of the Twizy ahead of its sales launch. Fresh from its unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show in March, the show also marked the UK debut of the production ZOE, specially shipped in from France for the day, which drew many admiring glances and questions from visitors.”

Zoe Voices

Zoe Voice Samples
Zoe Voice Samples

In the same month Renault made available samples of the ‘ZE Voice’ pedestrian warning sounds. The Voice system is active between 1 and 30km/h and is intended to alert those nearby of the car’s presence in a choice of three different alarm systems. Take a listen and see what you think.

My preference would be ‘Glam’ (despite the name) as it sounds a bit futuristic to me, which seems appropriate.

Electric Car Spotting

So far this year I have seen just two electric cars ‘in the wild’ – i.e. driving around as ordinary cars, rather than at shows. Today it was a Reva G-Wiz in Milton Keynes, a few months back it was a Renault Fluence on the Northampton ring road.

While it would be easy to be disheartened at how rare electric cars appear to be on UK roads, I’m actually more positive than that – particularly as I didn’t notice any last year.

Perhaps more significant and encouraging is just how far and fast these cars and general EV technology are developing. Compare the looks of the G-Wiz (a darling of Londoners since 2004) with the Fluence Z.E. of 2011.

Reva G-Wiz Electric Vehicle (Image: kenjonbro/Creative Commons)
Reva G-Wiz Electric Vehicle (Image: kenjonbro/Creative Commons)

Renault Z.E. Electric Car (Image: Renault)
Renault Z.E. Electric Car (Image: Renault)

Of course, both are surpassed by the Renault Zoe!

Zoe News March 2012 – TomTom, Chinese Copy, Climate Testing

TomTom SatNav

R-Link Incorporating TomTom Satellite Navigation (Image: Renault)
R-Link Incorporating TomTom Satellite Navigation (Image: Renault)

Timed to coincide with the official 6 March launch of the Zoe, TomTom announced that it would partner with Renault to supply the navigation in the Zoe’s R-Link multimedia system. The press release stated:

R-Link uses IQ routes and maps from TomTom. It also offers LIVE Services, including TomTom HD Traffic – giving drivers the fastest route to their destination based on the latest traffic situation. TomTom HD Traffic provides highly accurate traffic information for the whole road network including exit roads, slip roads and minor roads, which are not covered by competing technologies.

Chinese Copy

Greenwheel J0 – Zoe Copy (Image: Sohu.com)
Greenwheel J0 – Zoe Copy (Image: Sohu.com)

Just days after the Zoe launch came news that it had been cloned in China. The ‘Greenwheel J0’ was originally revealed on the Sohu.com site on 15 March and then re-reported on a number of English language sites, such as Car News China.

Testing in Australia

Zoe Undergoing Testing in Australia
Zoe Undergoing Testing in Australia

At the end of the month it was reported by Australian car sites Car Showroom and Car Advice that the Zoe was being tested for their market. A disguised version was flown in for engineering tests, accompanied by a team of engineers, and was seen on the road in Melbourne and Perth.
Justin Hocevar, the boss of Renault Australia, was quoted as saying:

The aim of testing the new Zoe in Australia is to ensure we are responding to the specific demands of the Australian market – from daily driving to cooling systems for our climate.

Winter Testing

Zoe Winter Testing in Sweden – Front Tracking (Image: Auto Express)
Zoe Winter Testing in Sweden – Front Tracking (Image: Auto Express)

At the same time as one Zoe was experiencing the heat of Australia another was undergoing winter testing in Sweden. The engineers from Renault were accompanied by journalists from Auto Express who provided one of the earliest driving reviews of the production Zoe – on the whole a very positive one:

Because the batteries are mounted under the floor, and in the middle of the car, stability is excellent and body roll minimal. The forgiving suspension deals well with rutted snow – so we can assume the Zoe will be every bit as relaxing to drive around town as the Leaf.

Zoe News February 2012 – 220 Mile Range

A week before the official launch of the production version of the Zoe at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2012 a rumour surfaced that the 2014 model could have a range of about 350km (220 miles). The first site to report this appears to have been Automobile Propre, based on an interview by BFM Business with Renault’s Carlos Tavares (though the link to a BFM article about the interview no longer works).
It always seemed unlikely that this rumour was true. Such a technological leap (of about 75% in battery storage) seems hard to credit over such a short period of time, and even if Renault could achieve it there would be no benefit to Renault to announce a better version of the Zoe coming just before the release of its current version. The follow-up appears to confirm this as Automobile Propre retracted the statement. You can decide for yourself as the (French language) interview is currently available via YouTube (though it may not stay there forever).
 

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

Like many electric vehicle enthusiasts I am keen on protecting the environment and follow the discussions in the media on climate change – while not being exactly a treehugger. Today I read a very interesting summary of the current climate change situation. It was published by Rolling Stone magazine, which is respected for its political reporting, so I don’t think it could be considered extreme by either side of the debate. Highly recommended reading:

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math – RollingStone.com

Global Warming New Math
Global Warming New Math