Road Test: Renault Zoe

Reporter:

Steve Rogers

LIKE the look of this... it could be your next car.

This is Zoe, one of the more affordable electric cars, and from the way things are moving, we might all be driving an electric or hybrid powered car within the next decade.

Swedish car maker Volvo has said that from 2019 all its cars will have an electric motor, either as pure electric or hybrid backed up by a petrol engine.

This may well be the nudge the industry needs to really get to grips with the pollution threat.

Renault is already well under way with its electric-powered programme and Zoe is a great introduction for anyone wanting to take the plunge.

With the Government’s plug-in grant, you can pick up a Zoe for just over £14k but, and it’s a big but, you have to add on the monthly battery rental, which starts from £59 a month.

That said, 95 per cent of sales are buy/lease because people choosing a PCP deal prefer the lower price and the battery is replaced if its output falls below 75 per cent.

The other option, which suits the fleet market, is to spend another five grand and buy outright with an
eight-year/100,000-miles warranty on the battery.

What is it like living with an electric car? At first it is a bit stressful because you never know when you are going to be faced with an unexpected long trip.

Normally this would not be a problem, but with an electric car and a range down to 50 miles, it’s panic stations, so forward planning is essential.

Zoe’s range is good, even ignoring the official NEDC test, which rates it at 250 miles.

In my case the most I could get on a full charge was 160 miles, simply because my home is at the top of a hill and the rate of battery use is based on the last journey.

Renault reckons on a maximum of 186 miles in summer conditions and a light foot, and 124 miles in the winter with the air-conditioning and lights nibbling away at the charge.

Interestingly, I could drive 10 miles from the house and have gained a few miles in range because 90 per cent of the journey is downhill.

This is where regenerative braking comes into play, sending power back to the battery under braking.

If there is one thing driving an electric car teaches you, it is how to drive economically.

And there is another big upside to that. Economic driving is safer driving.

Anyone considering buying an electric car must go in with eyes wide open.

Treat the car like a mobile phone and makes sure it is charged overnight when your rate is probably cheaper.

A full charge costs just over £3, but plug it in during the day and you can double that, although whichever way you look at it, the cost is cheaper than petrol or diesel.

Years ago an electric car would be considered a freak, with a boot full of batteries and performance on a par with Bradley Wiggins on his racing bike. Things have moved on.

Zoe is just another roomy five-door supermini and misses out on none of the luxuries we come to expect: electric windows, auto lights, wipers, air-con, satnav; you name it, they are all available.

Once under way, Zoe is a completely stress-free zone, quiet apart from a bit of road noise and a hum from the motor.

It is quickly off the mark and cruises effortlessly at 70mph but be aware of the drain on the battery at higher speeds.

Cruising speed makes you aware of the harder ride, which becomes choppy over poorer surfaces.

Zoe certainly doesn’t possess the poise of sister Cloe, but is nothing to get too concerned about.

And boot space is brilliant, although the one-piece seat-back makes it less practical than the usual 60/40 split.

Whatever we think about electric cars, they are the future and we are going to see lots, lots more on our roads.

This year sales of electric and hybrid cars are up 30 per cent. It seems the revolution has started.

See full story in the County Times

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