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:
News and comment on the Renault ZOE (the world's most advanced mass market car), other electric cars, climate change, and related subjects. A car that's quiet, lively, cheap to run and non-polluting…£14k. Driving straight past petrol stations without a second glance…Priceless.