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Renault hits electric milestone with the Zoe

IT’S a bold move to stake so much of a car-maker’s future on purely electric power but that’s what struggling Renault has done. That conviction has led to the creation of a four-car range of electric vehicles that includes the bizarre Twizy and an electric van.
By: Adam Towler
Published: Sat, April 13, 2013
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The-electric-Renault-Zoe-can-adapt-to-various-voltage-levels The electric Renault Zoe can adapt to various voltage levels

Forming the spearhead of these ambitions is the Zoe. This new supermini has been created from the ground up as a purely electric car. What’s more it’s rather good, which is why you shouldn’t just dismiss it out of hand.

The biggest challenge facing car-makers has been to increase the range of all-electric vehicles, pushing the boundaries of battery technology and employing sophisticated energy-saving measures.

Despite some progress Renault is still pitching the Zoe as a second car, if you need a supermini for longer journeys you’re better off with a new Clio, on which the Zoe is based.

Like the Clio the Zoe gets five doors and a unique body that’s distinctive, if rather tall.

Under the bonnet is an electric motor producing 88bhp while the battery pack is located under the floor. Officially, the Zoe will cover the 0 to 60mph sprint in 13.5 seconds before going on to a top speed of 84mph, although most potential owners are unlikely to drive it that hard.

If your only perception of an electric vehicle is a milk float you’ll be in for a shock when driving the Zoe for the first time.

There’s no sound when you start up but hit the accelerator and the Zoe positively leaps forward, gaining speed with silent and effortless muscle. This is because an electric motor develops all of its grunt instantly and at any motor speed, unlike a traditional car that takes time to build up power.

In outright performance terms the Zoe is certainly no sports car but in typical urban driving it feels very strong. At up to 18mph it emits one of three peculiar noises to warn pedestrians that it is approaching.

Renault claims its fully-charged range of 130 miles is a new class benchmark but candidly admits that in the real world the figure will drop to 90 miles or so, and 60 in cold, wet weather when the heater and wipers are going full blast.

That doesn’t sound like much but the company is quick to point out that 80 per cent of journeys cover fewer than 40 miles. For our part we managed to drive a fully-charged Zoe around a busy city for a couple of hours and still have plenty of remaining range.

You shouldn’t need to worry about the battery itself either. Renault will replace it when it drops below a certain efficiency.

More important are your recharging options. Renault has teamed up with British Gas to offer a free home wall-mounted charging box that will replenish the Zoe’s battery in just three-and-a-half hours.

Thanks to what Renault calls a Chameleon charger the Zoe can adapt to various voltage levels, meaning all the driver has to do is plug the cable into the socket and the car will sort out the technicalities.
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