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Renault Zoe Electric Car: First Drive Of Europe's Leaf Alternative Page 2

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2013 Renault Zoe electric car

2013 Renault Zoe electric car

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On the move

You sit conspicuously higher in the Zoe than you would in a Leaf--partly due to a lower side window line, partly as the best use of space in a small car is to go upwards.

For this reason, the Zoe doesn't feel as planted as some other electric vehicles, and those squashy seats don't hold you very well in quicker cornering--though you might say that this is academic in slow city driving.

Likewise the limited grip from the eco tires is more than sufficient for day-to-day use, but you won't be setting any skid-pad g-force records. The steering is pleasant enough though--relatively feedback-free, but smooth and consistent.

The drivetrain itself is as pleasant as any other electric car.

There's some creep built into the transmission making low-speed work easy, the accelerator pedal is responsive, and there's suitable performance for most driving. A 14-percent gradient taxed the 65 kW motor a little, but push the pedal to the floor (past a small kickdown-style stopper) and it summons extra urge for really tricky climbs.

Retardation from regenerative braking isn't overly strong, and we found the brake pedal a little grabby when pulling to a halt. This may partly be the fault of the test car's very low mileage.

Other details

While our drive was only brief, it was enough to discover that the Zoe would be a thoroughly pleasant city companion.

Renault has really thought about the small details. It's as quiet as most electric cars, but the noises you do hear are somehow soothing, low-pitch tones rather than the whine of a motor at high revolutions.

The Zoe's displays are simple and the light interior ambience relaxing. We were also fond of the unique turn signal noise, which had a reverb-style echo to it. And while some electric car drivers now prefer small joystick-style gear selection controls, the regular lever found in the Zoe will ease the transition for drivers moving to their first electric vehicle.

2013 Renault Zoe electric car

2013 Renault Zoe electric car

Enlarge Photo
Conclusion

As always, Renault's absence from the U.S. precludes any useful verdict on where the Zoe sits next to other electric vehicles, but in Europe, where pricing matches that of an equivalent gasoline or diesel car (not including $100/month battery rental, that is), it could really be the vehicle that turns people on to electric driving.

Handily, we've also driven Renault's Clio subcompact before for comparison, and we'd have no hesitation picking the Zoe if city driving was a priority.

All the virtues of electric cars really do shine through in the Zoe--and unlike Nissan's ungainly Leaf, Renault has even managed to make it an attractive car, too.

+++++++++++

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Comments (10)
  1. Nice job with the photos. Cute car.
     
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  2. A very good review, Antony, thanks. Since I'll probably never get to drive one, at least anytime soon, it is much appreciated. I'm sure you look forward to more market entries in Europe for fuller comparison purposes, too.

    Just better than the LEAF for me personally, simply because it's far more attractive. Let's hope that the LEAF, or an alternative, is better looking with the next generation.
     
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  3. Can't wait to pick my Zoe up has been on order since Decemeber, managed to get a drive at Silverstone the other week so quiet and very good build. The car has a big following in UK and will sell well I'm sure
     
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  4. The most talked about aspect of the Zoe is the built in 44 kW charger, no expensive Chademo or such needed. Just the "Type 2" plug that looks like a J1772 but has a couple more pins to handle three phase power which common in Europe.

    Not a word about it here. Last I heard, Zoe does "Mode 3" charging only, no plugging into a wall outlet at reduced power.

    Is this a three phase version of the AC Propulsion technology that uses the same circuitry for charging the battery and also for driving the motor? If so, it is not a galvanically isolated changer and probably requires double isolation of all High Voltage components. Maybe Mode 3 only for safety then?
     
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  5. Hi Jim,

    I did omit info about the charger but we were eager to highlight the driving impressions mainly, having written about the technical aspects on previous occasions.

    You're right, the "chameleon" charger used by the Zoe is an excellent idea that saves the need to look for specific chargers or drag cables around.

    You're also right that what it can't do is plug into a regular wall socket, which I suspect is for safety. However, this won't be a problem with many owners at home, since Renault is providing free charging points to owners (in the UK at least, where we tested the car).
     
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  6. Antony

    It might be a safety issue, but it might just be that the three charger modules are configured in a three phase "Delta" load topology, which does not use the Neutral wire (or functional Earth as they say in Europe). Without a Neutral connection, you cannot use the single phase connection of a regular wall outlet. The new Brusa NLG6 charger is configured for Delta topology also, making it similarly inflexible. There is presumably a cost benefit trade off at work, perhaps less of a step up in voltage since the Delta topology provides 400 volts in, not 230 volts for the Wye (or Star) topology.

    So many engineering trade offs, so little time...
     
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  7. Yea. Its a city car with a forty five mile radius at best, because you either charge up for thirty minutes to get one hours worth of drive, or you leave it at home and take your other car which is not range limited. Only because Renault decided to ditch the swappable batt concept and saddle the buyer with the price of battery, trusting Government to pick up the costs.
     
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  8. Not entirely true. The Zoe is actually prepared to be battery swappable, in case infrastructure would be introduced at a later stage. Also I don't understand what you mean with saddling up the buyer with the price of the battery? Whether you lease it or buy it (which Renault is keeping open as a possible option, even though leasing in the end is cheaper and gives more assurance), you still pay the price of the battery like any other consumable part. Trusting government to pick up the costs? I have to pay around 1000 euros to have a wallbox installed at my house in the Netherlands. No subsidy from the government, nor from Renault. There is an aftermarket 220V domestic socket charger for the Zoe, which will charge in about 18 hours.
     
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  9. Emile, do you have any details on that aftermarket 220 V domestic socket charger for the Zoe? Everything I have heard is Mode 3 (hardwired 3 phase wall box) only.
     
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  10. Renault's own estimates of 93 miles in temperate conditions. Better than the Leaf but what is with the talk of 130 miles of range?. That would be great since you could do 2 solid hours of highway driving with that kind of range. I am looking forward to the Gen III Tesla coming 2016 with 200 miles of range. That would allow me to almost totally eliminate the need to own a gasoline powered vehicle. I have a cabin 57 miles away and work about 48 miles away and have family about 65 miles away. Why would I want to buy a car that can not travel at least 130 miles since I travel these distances quite regularly and the Nissan Leaf although affordable is too range limited for me.
     
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