Zippy Zoe a big step for NZ electric vehicles
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A compact hatchback with a French badge and a price tag of $74,000. It is a combination you would think few in the automotive market would care about. But the Renault Zoe, shown for the first time in Wellington last week, is a positive move. It marks a return to the New Zealand market of a proper plug-in electric car.
Despite all the noise surrounding electric cars at the moment, you can’t buy a NZ new, pure-electric car. Imports have been the only option since Nissan withdrew its Leaf from sale here with far less fanfare than when it arrived.
And Renault’s cute little hatch won’t be leading the electric charge alone — the company will also be selling the Kangoo electric van, and Volkswagen will start selling the electric eGolf late this year.
For lovers of electric vehicles it is a start.
And for fleet buyers — at times averse to buying from the import market — there’s now an option on the table with full manufacturer’s warranty.
The Renault Zoe on display at the EV road show. Picture/ Richard Edwards
Renault New Zealand will sell Zoe in a single spec — the aptly named Zen— at $74,990, nearly double the price of similar French super-minis.
Sound expensive? It is. But it is $9000 cheaper than the similarly-sized BMW i3, which is selling at a reasonable rate for a niche model. But it is also a price that would get you into a 3-Series.
In Europe, Zoe costs half that, courtesy of an EU subsidy, and as a result is the top selling EV. Renault also retains ownership of the car’s batteries, and owners lease them. It is a controversial but useful system — and one not on the table for New Zealand.
The Zoe is not short on kit for a small hatch.
Standard specification includes climate control, a touch-screen media system with navigation, cruise control, automatic headlamps and wipers, Bluetooth, and 17-inch alloys.
It is hard to dispute that the little Zoe is cute — enough so that many will fall to its charms.
Inside the shapes and surfaces clearly take influence from consumer electronics. For the Zoe it seems anything with a plug is a distant cousin.
But your stick blender is not this powerful.
The Zoe is driven through the front wheels by an electric motor producing 65kW and 220Nm.
That is nearly 20 per cent less than the Nissan Leaf, with the Renault being barely 25kg lighter than the larger car.
The Zoe also has a smaller battery — 22kWh to 24kWh. But it goes much further.
Testing regimes differ but a Leaf with that battery — a larger one has just become available — will go 200km on the European test cycle. Zoe will go 20 per cent further to 240km.
The compromise is clear when you drive the Zoe — which we did on a brief lap of central Wellington.
While a Leaf feels genuinely quick the Zoe feels, let’s say, “zippy“. Performance is what you would expect from a petrol car of this size, albeit a lot smoother. With performance reined in a little, energy can go where it is needed — getting the Zoe as far as possible. This it does extremely well.
Any range hitting the 200km mark could be argued is enough for any city dweller — and will get you to the edge of town — or in most cases the next town — and back again.
Charging is via a “Type 2” connector secreted under the Renault shield in the nose of the car. This plug is a little scarce at public chargers in New Zealand, but we understand charging infrastructure provider Charge Net is looking at adding support for it at its growing list of sites.
Renault also has adaptors allowing the car to charge at the more common Type1 public stations. Charge times vary. An ideal 22kW fast charger will do the job in one hour, a standard plug at home can take up to nine hours.
Driving a Zoe is familiar and fuss-free. Controls — including the transmission lever — look identical to any conventional car, which will spur acceptance of the new technology. Steering is light and quick, making for nimble city driving — but it also has little feel. The car feels heavy — and at 1460kg it is — but that gives it a comfortable “planted” feeling.
For at least the next six months, if you want an NZ-new electric vehicle the Zoe is your only choice.
But to say that is all it has going for it is selling the little car well short.
■To read more on the Zoe, check out evtalk.co.nz and on the range of EVs in NZ, head to Driven.co.nz