Concern over range anxiety has prevented many motorists, especially those who live outside urban areas, from buying an electric car, either as the sole family car, or as a second car, writes Trish Whelan.
While Renault’s little electric city car, ZOE, is easy to charge, has zero emissions, lots of technology features, and some new colours, it’s what is under the car’s skin that has now changed so dramatically from the previous model. Fitted with the new Z.E. 40 battery, ZOE now offers double the driving range compared to when the model first went on sale in 2013.
The new ZE 40 battery now provides the longest range of any mainstream electric vehicle of up to 400km (NEDC) which the Irish company estimates to be 300km of range in real-world driving. Renault says this removes the final psychological barrier that stands in the way of buying an electric car, which is the so-called ‘range anxiety’.
At yesterday’s press launch of the ZOE with the 40 battery, Jeremy Warnock, Product Manager, Renault Group Ireland, said what people really want to know is if the range will fit their everyday driving be they from urban or rural areas.
He said: “This extended range means users no longer need to worry about charging their car as often and can put it to a wider variety of uses. Using mostly motorways, you are looking at a range of about 200kms.” Degenerative braking helps recharge the battery every time you brake, so ZOE is ideal for city driving in this regard.
Versions are Expression Nav, Dynamique Nav and Signature Nav.
The car is now available from €23,490. This price includes SEAI grant (€5,000) and VRT relief is for the entry Expression Nav version, with a 22kW/h battery. Key specs include Climate Control, R-Link Navigation and the Chameleon Charger. The mid spec adds hands free card, 16-inch alloys and rear parking sensors. The new Signature version is mostly for customers looking for exclusive features and places the focus firmly on style and elegance. It can be specified in an exclusive Ytrium Grey finish and has 16-inch diamond-effect Shadow Black wheels, R-Link multimedia navigation, premium leather upholstery BOSE audio, heated front seats and lumbar support for the driver’s seat.
The ZE 40 battery is standard on the Dynamique Nav and Signature Nav versions, at €27,490 and €29,990. All prices now include the battery so there’s no additional expense of a battery lease.
ZOE can be charged quickly with the Renault-patented Chameleon smart charger which adapts to the different power levels available at charging points and takes 30 minutes to charge an extra 80km when the car is plugged into one of the many public charging points available across Ireland and Europe. Most owners will charge their car at home for the full 300km range. There are 1,200 public charging points currently located around Ireland, all controlled by the ESB, and 80 fast charging points positioned mostly on motorways.
At yesterday’s press launch, we got to drive the car from The Radisson Hotel on the Stillorgan Road in Dublin, over an extended route taking in all sorts of roads including city suburbs, driving out the N7 as far as Rathcoole (where a group of schoolchildren excitedly pointed to the car recognising it as an electric car when they couldn’t hear the sound of the engine), then along some hilly routes above that village, before taking the road to Blessington and enjoying a lake drive from Lacken to Valleymount before moving to County Kildare and a part of the 448 towards Castledermot, exiting for the Athy Road at Ballitore and our destination, Burtown House for a press conference and lunch. A fair distance in all. I then drove the exact same car back to The Radisson when the trip computer showed 83kms of power left with 183.9kms done since the last full charge. So no, I experienced no range anxiety whatsoever.
On the road, the R90 electric motor instantly delivers maximum torque of 225Nm producing brisk acceleration and pickup from low speeds. The car can accelerate from standstill to 50km/h, the normal speed limit on city roads, in just four seconds.
There was little or no engine sound, and if you press a certain button on the dash, it becomes even quieter still. I found the car so easy to handle, it’s also extremely agile and can park in a pretty tiny space. I certainly enjoyed the drive and the whole ambience of the car’s interior which is a very comfy place to be in. There’s a good boot, but no spare. One thing to watch out for in all electric cars is to make sure the engine is turned off before you exit, as it’s easy to leave the car with the engine still on as there’s absolutely no sound.
There are more than 100,000 Renault electric vehicles currently in Europe, with more than one in four EVs a Renault, ZOE is Europe’s best-selling electric vehicle and has won won customer satisfaction awards.
Patrick Magee, Country Operations Manager, Renault Group Ireland yesterday said it’s important to get people into the car to see it for themselves and ‘the ZE 40’s long range battery gives people real confidence, and makes the electric car a real option for more people than ever’.
He said: “Renault is offering potential customers a 24-hour test drive programme which gives them the chance to experience this confidence for themselves. Ireland is ready for EVs thanks partly to the size of the country, but also the extensive public charging network - and new ZOE is the perfect car to make the most of this.”
Mr Magee is pictured below with the New ZOE.