When the updated 2017 Renault Zoe was unveiled last fall at the Paris auto show, it became one of the few electric cars whose range effectively doubled over its model life.
Launched in 2012 with a 22-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, the five-door subcompact hatchback had an effective range of 60 to 90 miles.
That was essentially on par with that of the Nissan Leaf, EPA-rated at 73 miles that year.
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But this year's battery upgrade to 41 kwh changed everything.
It gave the Zoe, Renault says, a range of 300 to 400 kilometers (185 to 250 miles) on the European test cycle.
Renault Zoe e-Sport Concept, unveiled at 2017 Geneva auto show [photo: Anthony Bernier]
Here's the unusual feature, though: owners of earlier Zoes can get the larger, longer-range battery—by swapping in their old battery.
As a press release from Renault last week pointed out, many Zoe owners chose to lease their battery from Renault rather than buy it.
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As Renault notes:
Thanks to battery leasing, as of spring 2017, owners of a Zoe equipped with a 22-kwh pack can upgrade to the [41-kwh] battery without changing their vehicle, and benefit from increased range.
Longer-range Renault Zoe electric car, introduced at 2016 Paris Motor Show
Battery leasing never caught on in North America, where electric-car makers decided that it would add an additional level of explanation on top of the education required to help buyers understand how electric cars worked, how they were charged, and so forth.
The only maker offering battery leasing in the U.S. is Smart, in the ForTwo Electric Drive that is now being replaced by a second-generation model.
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Thus far, Smart is not making the same offer of an upgraded battery pack available to its existing ForTwo Electric lessees—who viewed it more as a trade-in guarantee to protect against battery failure.
Renault has now leased more than 100,000 battery packs, it said in its release, the bulk of them in the Zoe hatchback and the Kangoo ZE all-electric small delivery van.