Tag Archive | "range anxiety"

Renault Zoe Sets A New Benchmark

In general the arrival of electric cars has been greeted with a sort of bored ambivalence. Certainly, some folk believe that they are the answer to the world’s climate problems and have gone out and bought one. These people probably live in Islington and wear a lot of designer black.

Nevertheless these cars sell; just not in the numbers that were maybe expected. Range anxiety is the principal issue, that and the price of them – government grant notwithstanding – for what you get. Well now the naysayer’s are going to have to eat their words. Renault have announced the Zoe and do you what? It’s a very good five door car.

We’ll come to the range issue later because it hasn’t gone away. First of all though, the car itself. It is a good looking supermini. If the onlooker didn’t know any better they would not realise that it is an EV. That’s it in the main picture.zoe b Renault Zoe Sets A New Benchmark

Inside, it is well finished with clean uncluttered lines; the dash being mercifully free of the many knobs and buttons festooning today’s cars. There is an excellent screen which, on the range-topping Dynamique Intens, incorporates a very acceptable reversing camera plus all the usual functions expected.

Although prices start at under £14k at base the versions that you would actually want to buy are rather more, so it is still not a cheap car; but given the new technology the price isn’t too OTT. The seats are supportive and comfortable. Even with a six-foot driver there is still knee room for a similarly sized rear passenger. Despite the compact size of the car this is good design which even leaves ample room for a perfectly acceptable boot space. Renault even come to your house and fit a charging point FOC and the car incorporates a ‘chameleon charger’ for go anywhere power connectivity.

This car drives really well with good acceleration and, obviously, virtually silent operation. A useful addition is the subtle engine-like growling noise the car makes at speeds below 20mph. This is sufficient to alert any dozy pedestrians who are not watching where they are going. Above twenty and the tyre noise will provide enough warning.

Range. There’s not much change here. Renault reckon up to about 130 miles is achievable but in the real world it is more likely to be about 90 miles. In winter, this figure will drop as the car uses more juice for ancillaries like lights and heaters. The Zoe does however harvest power KERS style from braking and offers an innovative heat pump that generates heat or cooling for less use of battery power.

Finally, the most contentious point. Renault will only lease the battery to an owner. The minimum cost is £70 per month. For the sort of mileage that owners of EV’s are likely to do that is probably at least the same amount of money that a frugal diesel will need for a month of driving, but without range anxiety. On the other hand, battery life is one less thing to worry about as owners will know that an exchange deal covers the life of the car.

So – a very good electric car that aids charging anywhere there’s a point and which has new ways of harvesting power. The range issue remains for drivers who have to go any meaningful distance but this is the EV against which all others will now be judged.

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Electric Cars Not Ready?

No doubt all drivers have an opinion but it really doesn’t matter what we think. The industry decides what they want to give us and produce vehicles accordingly. The idea of electric cars, for example, has been around for almost as long as conventional cars have; the problem is that the technology hasn’t been available. Until now. Or so we thought.

Over the last couple of decades or so, the ecology minded amongst us have issued dire warnings about the plight of the earth and the fact that we are sucking all the goodness out of it, like an irresistibly juicy orange.

Never one’s to miss jumping on a bandwagon when they see it, politicians decided that the world would run out of oil in pretty short order and that something needed to be done about the greenhouse gases for which we were all responsible. It’s not for this blog to express an opinion as to the rightness or wrongness of this. We want the facts, M’am. Just the facts.

The onus was upon car makers to produce ultra-clean cars with some form of alternative propulsion. Electricity seemed the way forward. Much R&D went into producing a viable product. Meanwhile, manufacturers presumably decided to hedge their bets and continued to work on improving conventional internal combustion motors.

Now it may well appear to have been a sensible approach. Toyota have announced that they do not now intend to build their electric version of the iQ in any significant quantity. They had planned to produce thousands to meet the perceived need. In fact, they are only going to make about one hundred for specific markets, mostly their home country.

This is thought to be because they do not now believe that both the world and the technology is ready for EV’s. This is logical because of all the negative, but not unreasonable, publicity surrounding battery technology and range anxiety. They are listening to their customers.

There’s nothing wrong with the concept of electric cars. Hybrids, whilst not perfect and not quite as green as they appear to be, are still a viable alternative and this looks like the direction that the Japanese company will take for the foreseeable future. The snag is that desire has outstripped the ability to realise the dream.

It’s not all bad news for EV fans. Nissan has sold some thirty eight thousand Leaf’s (should that be Leaves?) and remain confident in their product. Nevertheless, you can bet your last litre of petrol that other manufacturers will watch this one closely. Which way will they turn?

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