By Jim Hill, Wired UK
Renault’s fleet-leading electric car, the Zoe, is all charged up for its European launch next year. It’ll be one of the most affordable and forward-looking EVs on the road when it arrives.
The French automaker has no fewer than four electric vehicles in the works, including the others are the Twizzy, Kangoo and Fluence. But it’s the small and practical Renault Zoe that’s set to become the mass-market model. Renault hinted that the cost will be a little less than a Clio dCi (£14,800, or $24,000), with a government subsidy making it one of the most affordable electric cars around.
After driving a nearly production-ready prototype in France, it looks like a tempting deal.
The Zoe is similar size to the popular Clio, but Renault went beyond modifying an existing model. Electric drivetrains are smaller and lighter than combustion engines. That means the Zoe can take a more aerodynamic teardrop shape, with a blunt nose and tapered rear-end to cut wind resistance. Renault says the drag co-efficient is 0.29.
The limiting factor, as ever, is the battery. The car weighs 1,392 kilos (a bit more than 3,000 pounds), due in large part to the Zoe’s lithium-ion pack. The pack’s good for 160 kilometers (100 miles) on a full 8-hour charge, which seems like a realistic range. A 10-minute quick-charge is enough to give you 50 km (31 miles) or so, and Renault says the battery can be swapped in around three minutes.
Interestingly, you don’t actually own the battery with Renault’s plan; you lease it. That guarantees you’ll always have a working one and future-proofs your car as battery technology (hopefully) evolves.
The car I drove felt heavy with stiff steering and rattling interior, but I’m assured that’s because it’s a working prototype with a lot of miles. Renault says the real thing will be as nimble and silent as other electric cars. I don’t doubt it. The design is slicker and lighter than the Nissan Leaf, a car with a surprising turn of speed.
Propulsion comes from a 60 kilowatt (80 horsepower) electric motor with plenty of torque. Renault claims the Zoe will do zero to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 8.1 seconds. Top speed is limited to 84 mph because anything faster will severely impact range.
Zoe’s interior will be similarly high-tech with Philips Lighting and L’Oreal helping develop lighting and air conditioning to improve your general well-being as you drive. This feature wasn’t installed in the car I drove, but making the driver as alert and comfortable as possible seems like a good idea. A nine-inch touchscreen in the center of the dash will provide easy-to-read maps and battery-level indicators.
Designer Axel Breun told Wired.co.uk., “The Zoe is designed from the wheels up around Renault’s third-generation electric drivetrain. We wanted the car to look new and different because this is the future, but it’s still a practical compact car, so we don’t want it to look strange. It has a high belt line because of the battery. The large Renault logo on the front will feature on other Renault cars eventually.
“The light colours are softer and friendlier, which suits the technology and the wellness technology inside,” he said. “Philips is working with us on the lighting and Loreal will be helping us with a perfume and hydration diffuser.”
It looks like Renault is courting female buyers with the design and interior, and given Clio’s success that seems like a good strategy. What’s universally attractive though is the price. The Zoe will have the mass-market appeal that the EV market is crying out for.
Photos: Clément Choulot
Via Wired Autopia: http://www.wired.com/autopia/