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Why The Renault Zoe Is Europe’s Most Important Electric Car

You may never have heard of Europe’s most important electric car.

It’s the Renault Zoe, an all-electric subcompact that won’t be sold in the United States.

It comes from French Renault, a company that shares technology with Japan’s Nissan–which introduced the Leaf compact electric hatchback here in December 2010.

You can think of the Zoe as the Leaf’s younger and more stylish half-sibling, if you like.

But its success, both in France and across the broader European market, will be crucial in setting expectations for how well plug-in electric cars do in Europe.

With hordes of subcompact and compact diesel cars available in Europe, and more drivers living in multiple dwellings without their own garages, Europe may be a tougher challenge for electric cars in some ways.

On the other hand, France’s’ electric grid has a great deal of nuclear power, meaning switching from burning hydrocarbon-based liquid fuels to driving on electrons really does have an impact on carbon emissions–much more so than in countries with coal-rich generation.

And Parisians already have some experience with electric cars, through the AutoLib electric car-sharing program that has put 1,750 Bollore BlueCars at 760 roadside charging kiosks in the capital region.

In late December, Renault delivered a total of 11 Zoes. The very first one went to France’s minister for industrial development, Arnaud Montebourg, and 10 more to the Leclerc store chain, which has installed charging stations at some of its stores.

2013 Renault Zoe electric car (European model) at 2012 Paris Auto Show

2013 Renault Zoe electric car (European model) at 2012 Paris Auto Show

The Zoe will start arriving in volume at Renault dealerships in France this spring.


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