EV’s new battery offers major range boost
Renault’s Zoe has been going about its all-electric business in a capable but understated way since 2012. That’s a fair life for a modern car so the French manufacturer has been at work titivating and tweaking its supermini for 2017.
The revised Zoe gets some cosmetic adjustments, including new paint options, and there’s a new Signature Nav trim level to reflect demand for an even higher spec than the previous range-topper. But the biggest addition to the Zoe range is a new 41kW battery.
At almost double the capacity of the older power supply but taking up the same space in the car, the new battery gives the Zoe Z.E. 40 the longest EV range this side of a Tesla Model S. Official tests put it at 250 miles but Renault are open about the flaws of such testing and say the Zoe has a real-world range of 186 miles. Even in the depth of winter, when cold affects battery performance, they say it won’t deliver less than 124 miles.
Renualt Zoe Dynamique R90 Z.E.40
Price: £19,145 after plug-in car grant. Battery rental from £59pcm
Engine: R90 electric motor
Top speed: 84mph
0-62mph: 13.5 seconds
Range: 250 miles (NEDC test)
CO2 emissions: 0g/km
With numbers like that range anxiety really starts to fall away. They make this a realistic commuter car even for those who only have access to a charger at home.
And on an admittedly short test route the Zoe seemed to honour the figures, managing to eat less into the remaining range than expected thanks to regenerative braking and some careful use of the eco mode.
This setting significantly dampens the performance of the car. In normal driving mode you are much more aware of the instantly available torque and the Zoe feels fairly lively, in eco everything feels more laboured. The reward for putting up with this is, of course, that you’ll go much further on a charge.
You’re unlikely to be hooning around the countryside much in the Zoe anyway. It’s not that kind of car and the ride and handling are evidence of that. Steering is light but uncommunicative and it feels like it rides heavily on its suspension due to the weight of the batteries.
Because of the positioning of the batteries under the car’s floor the seats are mounted quite high and you feel slightly perched on rather than sitting in the car. That aside the driving position and visibility are good and there’s plenty of adjustment to help the driver get comfy.
Sensibly, the cabin doesn’t try to do anything fancy. It will be familiar to anyone who has driven any small Renault recently, with a seven-inch media/nav screen dominating the gloss black centre stack above heater controls. Material quality is fine but nothing more but even with a dark trim selected the cabin feels airy and spacious. That said, this is still a supermini so don’t expect limo-like space in the back, although the boot is an impressive 338 litres.
Despite the Zoe’s high-tech propulsion, Renault have avoided the temptation to bombard the driver with endless data. The digital instruments are clear and simple, showing speed, range, gear selection and a basic trip computer. A coloured arc shows how hard you’re leaning on the throttle and the range indicator pulses when regenerative energy is being fed into the battery but neither are distracting, unlike the drivetrain graphics in some other EV and hybrid vehicles.
There is no doubt that electric vehicles will be an important part of our motoring future and cars like the Zoe are helping that shift come on apace with a blend of smart packaging and everyday