(REPOST: Cars Ireland)
The Renault Zoe might be a small car, but it’s making big waves on the Irish market. The fully electric supermini currently offers a range of 400km from a single charge, which is more than any other mainstream electric vehicle out there at the moment. Renault themselves will tell you that that figure is unlikely in real life, and that much like claimed fuel economy figures, you can shave about 25 per cent off that straight away. Even so, a 300km real-world range is a remarkable achievement, both for Renault, and the electric car movement.
Electric range is something that has been rapidly creeping up as carmakers rush to come up with alternatives to the fossil-fuelled cars that they soon won’t be allowed to produce anymore. In fantasy NEDC figures, it beats the trail-blazing Nissan Leaf’s current 250km, the Hyundai Ioniq’s 280km, and the latest Volkswagen E-Golf’s 300km.
Sure, Tesla could probably put up an argument now that they’re here, but while their entry model starts at €88,000, the Zoe can be yours for less than €24,000 (after VRT relief and the Government’s SEAI grant). It’s safe to say that puts it within the reach of a lot more people.
Our resident car tester Sinéad recently spent a week with one to see what ‘living electric’ is like on a day to day basis.
I collected the Zoe on Monday evening. I had just come out of a 2.0l turbo-charged Volkswagen Golf R, a not so environmentally-friendly petrol-powered hot hatch, which with its 180g CO2/km, and colossal €750 motor tax penalty for same, was an entirely different animal altogether. I had accepted this.
I’ve had limited time with EVs before. I spent a week with the Nissan Leaf, and a couple of days with the last Volkswagen E-Golf. I enjoyed them both, but at the time they felt like novelties. It was before all this talk of the death of diesel, and Governments starting putting dates on the end of fossil fuel and ‘some day’ became ‘one day, soon’.
All of this was on my mind as I powered up the Zoe. It’s push button start, naturally, and the cute and friendly little pings on start-up were welcoming and cheerful. The blue lights that flashed around an altogether normal looking cabin were the same. Think Disney’s WALL-E. This electric future wasn’t so scary. Silently, I pulled away.
184km was the message on the range monitor which replaces the petrol gauge on a normal car. It hadn’t been charged to full capacity. Still, my commute home was less than 15km from the collection depot. I considered myself safe enough. Alas, most of that journey consists of Dublin’s notoriously congested M50 motorway, so what should be a 15 minute trip took forty minutes. The constant stop-start along with window wipers and ramped up air-conditioning meant I arrived home with less than 130km ‘on the clock’. I put the Zoe to bed and pledged to look at it with a pair of fresh eyes in the morning.
Looking out at the driveway the next day, I thought the little Zoe looked quite at home. It doesn’t look too different from your typical Supermini. The lack of exhaust pipe and fuel cap are the obvious giveaways, but it’s strange how the eye doesn’t miss them. The Renault Lozenge on the bonnet hides the charging socket. It’s cute as a button, and surprisingly spacious inside.
The boot, at 338 litres, is actually larger than the Ford Fiesta, the Volkswagen Polo and the Nissan Micra. As for backseat passengers – taller adults might struggle a bit when it comes to knee room, but for the kids who are more likely to be passengers back there – it’s perfectly fine. There’s also two isofix anchors for childseats.
I fired it up again. The WALL-E noises made me smile, again. 115km left. Hmm. Had it been cold last night? I hadn’t even thought about charging it. There are two types of people in the world – those who don’t let their phones, fuel tanks, and fridges go below 50 per cent, and those who only think of such things when they’re down to five per cent and eating slices of ham and a yoghurt for dinner. I unfortunately fall into the latter.
Still though, I live in a Dublin suburb, which fortunately isn’t usually more than 20km from anywhere I need to be. I had a video shoot that day less than five minutes away, and it was at a car dealership. Maybe there would be a charger on site.