Review: Renault Zoe electric car
At last, an affordable, practical, decent looking e-car. WOOT
To argue that the electric car has already failed is farcical. To date only one mass-market EV from an established car maker has been launched in the UK: the Nissan Leaf. Even I’m not fully convinced by the Leaf. I think it’s too big, too ugly and too expensive. A revised, cheaper, longer-range Sunderland-built model will address some of those failings, but I can’t see it changing my essential feelings towards it.
No, in my opinion the only two cars that will fly the flag of the e-car in a convincing manner in 2013 are Toyota’s Prius Plug-in hybrid and Renault’s new Zoe BEV. If in two years’ time global sales of these two are still piss poor then, and only then, will I discuss the “failure” of the e-car.
Renault's Zoe: bang up to date
My initial impressions of the Zoe were gathered over the course of a two-day test in and around Lisbon on roads that looked like they had last been repaired just before the Romans pulled out. Naturally this also meant I was driving a left-hand drive car so I can’t guarantee the ergonomics of the right hookers we’ll get in the UK.
The Zoe is based on the same shared Nissan-Renault platform that underpins the new Mk. IV Clio. So everything is bang up to date and as safe as any other car in its class right down to the five-star Euro NCAP rating. The platform should also be a clue that the Zoe is a size smaller than the Leaf: a largish B-class rather than a C.
For drivers, the good news is that out on the open road, despite only having a 65kW (88bhp) electric motor, the Zoe feels both quick and responsive. More importantly it feels light and agile which is quite an achievement when you remember that there is a 290kg battery pack slung beneath the cabin.
A fine looking motor
The top speed may be limited to 84mph but the Zoe accelerates up to it briskly with no fuss or drama. The actual 0-62mph scamper takes 13.5 seconds but in real world driving the 220Nm (162 lb-ft) of torque that’s available from the off makes it feel faster than that.
Compared to the driving experience of the Renault Fluence or the Nissan Leaf, the Zoe is a big step forward. It’s just so much more fun to throw around the bends. It’s also completely silent. There’s not a hint of motor whine and road noise is well suppressed. Even by EV standards this is a very refined car.
While silence may be golden for the occupants the same is not true for pedestrians, and certainly not the aged, the hard of hearing or the plain inattentive. With this in mind the Zoe can generate three different sounds when under low -speed acceleration, any of which could double as the sound of a starship’s drive engines in a budget sci-fi movie.
One small EV, one huge ocean
Unlike the visually challenged Leaf, the Zoe looks as good as it goes. Sharing a clear family identity with the new Clio it strikes an appealing balance between contemporary small car chic and EV futurism. In my opinion it’s one of the most interesting cars on the road alongside the Citroën DS3.
Like the Clio, the Zoe is only available as a five-door, but the rear pair are designed to be as close to invisible as possible with the handles hidden away in the C-pillar. The curious ridged pattern on the door catches is the thumbprint of the Zoe’s designer, Jean Sémériva.
Inside the cabin, the crisp and modern design ethic is continued, though I struggled to see the supposed influence of the shape of a wind turbine blade in the design.
Next page: Impressive interior
Aaand we have the obligatory idiot
Who forgets that :-
1) 40%+ of UK power is from low carbon, relatively clean sources.
2) That percentage rises when you recharge off peak over night
3) That any pollution isn't in city centers where it is bad for health
4) That large, fixed power plants can be very much more efficient than small mobile IC engines (80%+ vs 30% max)
5) That improving a fixed generator will effectively improve all existing EVs
Re: At last, an affordable, practical, decent looking e-car. WOOT
That's because the 404 is a Peugeot, not a Renault.
Lies...damn lies...and statistics.
Ah, the obligatory person who claims the other guy is an idiot. They're usually more wrong than the first guy. Time for some corrections.
1) As I type, 65.4% of electricity on the National Grid is coming from coal or gas. Rather less than the 40% you claim is coming from low carbon sources. But this number is irrelevant - I'll explain below.
2) That percentage changes all day. It often goes lower at night as we import spare electricity from nuclear power stations in France which aren't as easy to shut down for the night as our coal/gas fired ones are. But this number is irrelevant - I'll explain below.
3) Whilst some pollution is localised, CO2 is more of a global issue. Where it comes from is irrelevant. Generating electricity in the UK generates on average about 600g of CO2 per kWh. When one kWh is only good for about 3 miles in an EV, that's quite a lot. Additionally a lot of low level pollution in City Centres is, rather amazingly, caused by crappy diesel generators that kick in to provide electricity when power supplies frequently fail. WIthout them, London would be a cleaner place.
4) Efficiency is a non-argument, unless the waste is of concern. EV fans always use the efficiency argument but it simply doesn't apply, unless we're comparing two machines that use the same fuel. We aren't. One machine is 80% efficient at burning cheese and the other is 30% efficient at burning chalk . So what? It's the best use for chalk that we have.
5) Improving the power supply will indeed improve all EVs. That's why we should be investing in a cleaner power supply, not investing in more devices to use the dirty power.
The reason the numbers in 1) and 2) are irrelevant are because EVs are only charged using "marginal" electricity. This is the crap you have left after all the green power has been used up.
Wind, solar, and other sources do not have fuel you can store. You get "green" solar electricity when the sun shines. You get wind power when it's windy. You can't simply bottle it up. As a result, green suppliers sell every last drop of it at the moment it is generated. It is all pumped directly into the National Grid...and used.
We're currently generating 48,115MW of electricity to meet demand. The entire wind power output of the UK is currently 5,228MW, or just 10.9% of demand. 1.8% (860MW) comes from hydro and solar genaration is so small it doesn't even appear on the chart except as part of "Other", which provides 696MW (1.4%).
As these green sources only make up about 15% of the current demand - or around 30% if we include nuclear - they are all consumed before they even come out of the power plant. If our demand was only 15,000MW maybe that would be OK, but we need more than three times that. The only way to get extra power is to burn fossil fuels - enter coal and gas.
If you plug in an electric car, the grid needs more power. As all the power from wind, solar and hydro is already allocated, the only option is to throw a few more coals on the fire and increase pollution in the atmosphere. This isn't an opinion, it's a fact.
The only way to improve UK air quality is to either a) Use less electricity or b) Reduce the emissions footprint of generating that electricity. As a) is highly unlikely, that leaves us with b).
Once all UK electricity comes from clean or renewable sources, then, and only then, should we start wasting our money on electric cars.
Where do I sign up?
"this review will no doubt draw the usual flak from libertarian yahoos who seem to object on principle to any product even partly inspired by the need to try to reduce the all too obvious causes of climate change"
For that line alone, sir, a beer.
>>I suppose the pollution generated from power stations providing the electricity for this car would fall into that category
Please learn a little something before making stupid statements like this. It never crossed your mind that the pollution per unit of energy released might differ between burning petrol in your car and burning coal in a power station?
Just as we talk about CPU power per watt these days, we need to compare CO2 per KWh for petrol Vs electric to see which is actually cleaner... it's possible your point might actually be true once all factors are taken into account but only by coincidence.
Plus of course you totally miss the point that lack of exhaust in a city centre is a good thing.