Renault and Bolloré form EV partnership

Renault and Bolloré form EV partnership
Renault and Bolloré form EV partnership

Renault and Bolloré are joining forces to promote electric vehicles (EVs) as part of three agreements relating to industrial cooperation, the founding of a joint-venture to sell EV car sharing solutions and a feasibility study on the development of a specific new Renault vehicle for car-sharing plans.

The Bolloré Group has commissioned Renault for its expertise in electric cars to gradually take over assembly of the Bluecar, formerly built solely in Italy. The vehicles will be assembled at the Renault plant in Dieppe (Normandy, France) from the second-half of 2015. For the Dieppe plant, this decision is an acknowledgement of its expertise and a promise for its future activity.

The Dieppe plant specialises in building vehicles in small series. It currently builds Clio Renaultsport and is set to build the future Alpine, scheduled for launch in 2016. The Dieppe plant will be able to rely on the expertise of the Renault group in electric vehicles to acquire the skills necessary to assemble this type of vehicle.

A new final assembly workshop will be set up specially within the plant to build these vehicles. The Bolloré group will thus have access to modern production tooling tailored to its requirements and delivering a significant reduction in costs.

Read more: Fuel Included

Electric Motoring With Fuel Included – Part 2

[Part 1 is here]

Development of the new ‘Fuel Included’ business progresses. I have registered the company as Fuel Included Limited with Companies House.

More significantly – in terms of the masses of paperwork required – I have registered both myself and the company with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the regulatory organisation that has replaced the FSA. This is because I will be providing leasing contracts to the general public, and since leasing involves giving credit, the business is considered to be involved in activities that require registration. Fortunately I have no criminal record so the process went through smoothly!

However, getting a simple business bank account through my usual Northampton branch of Barclays became a nightmare (with major delays and cancelled appointments). Finally the online account came through this week thanks to the intervention of my (local to work) Milton Keynes branch.

Fuel Included Limited is now fully up and running!

In parallel with all the admin required to start up a new business, I have been working hard on creating a good Fuel Included website. Obviously I have the experience of working on MyRenaultZOE.com, and in fact I have also created a number of other websites over the years, so I had a pretty good idea how I wanted it to go.

Original Fuel Included Logo
Original Fuel Included Logo

Having said that, as a commercial enterprise the site has to be of a particularly high quality and so I have taken on external advice and help. For example, I originally made a Fuel Included logo myself but was persuaded to have a new one created commercially – and I’m now very pleased with the outcome.

Official Fuel Included Logo
Official Fuel Included Logo

The main site is at FuelIncluded.com and is about half complete. It’s useable, but I’ll continue to develop and complete it over the next few weeks. I hope to have it finished by the end of November.

FuelIncluded.com Screenshot
FuelIncluded.com Screenshot

Sales are conducted through a separate domain site at Deals.FuelIncluded.com. This uses commercial car leasing software and I’ll write up more about how this works in my next post.

While I remain convinced that the British public can be persuaded to move over to electric cars – and may one day even embrace them – I still really look forward to having it confirmed!

My 600km trip from Belgium to Germany

Each year I go to Essen, Germany for a big board game convention. Since I bring home a sizable amount of games, we have opted not to use the train. Hauling back is simply easier with a car.

This year is the first time we don’t have an ICE available to make that trip, so we again faced the choice: go by train or use the ZOE. A quick look at the charger map made the decision easy: there’s plenty of AC chargers along the way, most of them 22kW or more.

The trip would take me from the South of Flanders in Belgium through the South of the Netherlands in to the Ruhr region of Germany. A 300km trip, one way.

We already have a The New Motion charging pass which we occasionally use in Belgium, but it also works on a lot of chargers in The Netherlands. After all, The New Motion is a Dutch company. So I felt confident I would be fine with just the one card.

I also had a look at Germany. The last charger I would use in The Netherlands was in Venlo, 65km from my destination. Going from there to Essen and back was certainly possible without recharging, but not at highway speeds. I quickly found out there where 2 AC quick chargers in Duisburg, only 15km from Essen that sould work with my New Motion card.

I also knew an RWE charger at the end of the street my hotel is in, so charging there would be more convenient. I contacted RWE and they told me I could use their chargers using the PlugSurfing service. I went on to the PlugSurfing website to register, and found they had two options: use the app or get a pass for almost €10. They where so nice as to tell me that not all chargers would work with the app yet, so the pass was a safer option. Since I probably wouldn’t have 3G connectivity and the app wasn’t compatible with my older smartphone, I got the pass, which arrived just in time for the trip.

We left from my home and drove to Turnhout, some 126km away. We drove mostly 90km/h on the motorway, and we arrived with about 20km of range left. Since the Turnhout charger is – like most AC chargers in Belgium – only 22kW, we had plenty of time to grab a bite.

We then drove on to Venlo, 101km further, also at 90km/h for most of the time. We had slightly more range left, but this was the last charger on our route that wasn’t in Germany, so I felt it was the last one we could count on. A nice surprise was that this charger was 43kW, even though the website had indicated it was 22kW. But there was also a secondary 22kW charger available. I did notice that even though it is rated at 43kW, it did take slightly longer to charge than it ever did on my trip the the UK, using Ecotricity chargers.

When the battery was at 99%, we went on our way to Essen. We arrived there with about 80km of range left, enough to get back to Venlo if nothing unexpected happened. But I decided to charge in Germany if possible just to make the trip back more comfortable.

After 6 days at the convention it was time to head back. Before breakfast and packing, I went to the RWE charger with my car. Upon arriving there the charger was ICEd, but my cord was long enough to reach it from a nearby spot. But the charger didn’t have an RFID reader, meaning that it could only be activated with the app, the opposite of what the PlugSurfing site had warned for. On the Duisburg then.

When we arrived in Duisburg we found the charger very easily. A plug-in Volvo was charging on one side with a Schuko plug, but the other side was free and both sides could be activated independently. You can’t plug in unless you unlock the port with your RFID card, so I swiped my The New Motion card, which was the one that was supposed to work. It took very long to authenticate before being rejected. I tried again, but the rejection was clearly cached in the charger, as it was immediately rejected again. I tried the PlugSurfing pass just in case it would work, but I got an error message which I didn’t understand.

I didn’t feel like placing an expensive international phone call to get the thing to work, so we went on to Venlo to charge there. We arrived there with 20km of range left. The rest of the journey went as planned.

I’m glad this happened in a situation where I didn’t really need the charge, but if I ever make a longer trip through Germany, I’ll make sure to do more research and be better prepared because this can hardly be called a success.

Electric Motoring With Fuel Included

Me and My ZOE (Image: T. Larkum)
Me and My ZOE (Image: T. Larkum)

It was late in 2011/early in 2012 when I first started taking notice of articles in the online press about climate change and electric vehicles. Being interested in all things technical I was particularly intrigued by the fast pace of development in electric motoring. By the Spring of 2012 I had decided to take the plunge, and on 1 May that year I paid the fee to pre-register for a Renault ZOE. Of course, I didn’t know then it would take more than another year to be delivered!

It’s now 14 months since our ZOE arrived in July 2013 and changed our minds on fossil-free motoring. It represents a big part of an ongoing change of lifestyle. In the same summer we had our second set of solar panels installed (big enough to cover the ZOE’s charging, while the first set provides for the house). We also changed over our domestic energy supplier from e.ON to Ecotricity in order to have a purely renewable electricity supply. A pleasant side effect of the change of supplier was to actually get a reduced rate across the board. We also started an Economy 7 tariff (the previous owners of the house had installed a second meter) to allow extra cheap charging at night.

Far from being a second car the ZOE is now our default vehicle for going everywhere, long trips as well as short ones. I use it every workday to commute from Northampton to Milton Keynes. It does the family errand runs at the weekend. More significantly, when we have to travel long distances as a family I much prefer to take the ZOE, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it is of course cheaper per mile than our conventional Ford Focus. Secondly, it massively reduces our carbon footprint since it charges at home, and at Ecotricity rapid chargers on the way, with renewable electricity. Thirdly, and this is just not stated often enough, it is much nicer to drive than a combustion car because of its smoothness, quietness, and lack of gear changing (whether compared to a manual or automatic ’box).

Having become a convert to electric motoring I have naturally become something of an evangelist for EVs, something that seems to happen to the majority of EV drivers. I am forever answering questions from people – friends, family, bystanders – about the ZOE.  What is disappointing is that most people have such ignorance about electric cars – not just in terms of details, but to the extent that many seem to believe that they don’t exist, or actually can’t exist, until they see one. They are then very pleasantly surprised when they get a lift in one, or – better – get to test drive one.

Earlier this year I decided to do something more concrete about this sad situation, to do something positive in the field of electric motoring and renewable energy. After kicking around various ideas and getting feedback from interested parties I focused in on electric car leasing as a market opportunity that was waiting to be filled. I began work on a business plan that was completed in July.

What I don’t think most people can understand is that although electric cars are expensive to buy, their low running costs mean you can easily save money in the long run. Unfortunately most people don’t seem to have that long-term ‘total cost of ownership’ idea in mind when buying a new car. I think the solution is to offer a new car at a monthly fee with fuel included in the price. This is analogous to how most people expect to pay for their mobile phones, and for the same reason – it avoids a large upfront cost.

The ‘unique selling point’ of the business plan is that the company will offer new electric cars on long-term lease with fuel (i.e. electricity) covered by the monthly cost. These cars can be fully electric, in which case all fuel is included, or plug-in hybrids in which case the electricity component is included. In the latter case, however, the car will be chosen to best target the customer’s circumstances so that the bulk of driving (particularly a daily commute) can be achieved entirely on electricity. At the same time it allows the customer the flexibility to choose to drive on fossil fuels if they wish (for example when in a rush, or to take the car on holiday, and so on).

The economics are such that for some drivers – particularly high mileage drivers (i.e. those that can recharge at work) – the cost of a new fuel included car can be less than they currently spend on petrol. Those drivers get to drive a new car for free.

I am currently in the process of creating a start-up company to offer this new form of personal motoring. I believe it will have long-term success, though it may well have a slow start in what is currently a small, and arguably hostile, market in the UK.

[Part 2 is here]

[The new Fuel Included website is at FuelIncluded.com – any feedback appreciated.]

Renault offers EV outright purchase

CHR1882_ZOE_Static_Renault
Renault will offer car buyers the choice of leasing or purchasing on its electric vehicles, according to UK managing director Ken Ramirez.

The announcement marks a change in a policy that has previously only allowed EV buyers to lease the battery packs. That strategy put the car maker at odds with some areas of fleet, particularly residual value experts Cap, which refused to predict a value on an EV that had split ownership. Additionally, some areas of the insurance market also questioned the split ownership in terms of cover and write-off payments.

The move, which is thought will happen in the next few months, will bring Renault into line with sister firm Nissan, which offers a choice of outright purchase or battery leasing for its EVs.

Speaking exclusively to BusinessCar at the launch of the new Twingo, Ramirez also confirmed that Renault in the UK would not re-enter the upper medium saloon market, but instead take a new large 4×4 that is currently in development:

“We won’t take the Laguna in the UK. The market isn’t there. Instead, we will take a D-segment [upper medium] SUV.”

Ramirez’s boss, and European chief executive, Steffen Mueller, said that one of the key points Renault considers when producing a new car is its residual values, but added that the firm does not give sales predictions in order to keep pressure off registrations.

“We don’t have much business in the ‘dirty’ sales: Motability, daily rental and pre-registrations,”

said Mueller.

“We need to have volume, but we want to have good residual values. We don’t focus on one car and say we must have this volume. We are going to grow in the UK, but we’re going to do it with cars we can’t talk about today.”

Ramirez, keen not to contradict Mueller, added:

“The UK is a unique business. There is a feeling [internationally] that everything that’s not retail is dirty business. But Motability is not dirty business. The only thing is that it’s not controlled by you. And for us pre-registrations doesn’t happen.

“Short-term rental can be a good business. It’s a question of how much you enter into it. It’s only damaging if the percentage is over that of your retail market share. You can’t go over the retail penetration, when it is higher then it harms your business.”

Commenting on the outlook for fleet registrations, Ramirez added:

“In the past we were over-dependent on fleet. Retail is growing very strongly, so it looks like there is less of an impact with the growth of fleet. It’s running at about 60:40 retail to fleet now.”

Source: Business Car

News and comment on the Renault ZOE electric car – quiet, lively, and non-polluting for £300 per month including fuel.