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.”
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.
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:
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:
So I am officially the 172nd person to reserve a Renault ZOE (in the UK, I believe).
“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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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:
Over the last year I have become very interested in electric cars, and in particular the Renault Zoe, and so I have created this blog to pass on news and opinion covering the Zoe, electric cars, and related issues.
News and comment on the Renault ZOE electric car – quiet, lively, and non-polluting for £300 per month including fuel.