She’s electric, can I be electric too ?
We featured the Master Z.E. Electric van on our June 2018 front cover & in early February 2019, finally got a chance to drive it.
Renault & their dealer network know a thing or two about EV vans with the smaller Kangoo having been around for five years. What the Master Z.E. brings though, is large van payload of 1,128kg, although with a claimed Summer electric range of 74 miles, it will only appeal to those whose van mileage is low & who can re-charge their Master regularly.
Every version comes with a five-year/60,000-mile battery warranty. That’s in addition to the three-year/100,000-mile standard vehicle warranty. There’s a choice of three wheelbase configurations: short (SWB), medium (MWB) & long (LWB), with two roof heights: low (LR) & medium (MR). All are based on the normal van’s Business spec – we tested the MM31 Z.E. Business. These are offered with ABS with EBD, deadlocking, electric front windows, ESC (Electronic Stability Control) with Grip Xtend, Hill Start Assist & Trailer Swing Assist.
The range will be offered in platform cabs well. These will be suitable for bodywork conversion & Renault will offer conversions directly to customers through its 30-strong Pro+ commercial vehicle network in the UK.
The Master Z.E. introduces Renault’s next generation of fleet management ” Renault Easy Connect .” On-board telematics will allow fleet managers to monitor all vehicles via Renault’s EasyConnect software. You’ll be able to keep your eye on vehicle location, mileage, range & nearby charging points. Any technical issues that may arise can be relayed back to the fleet manager. In an effort to streamline fleet maintenance, the EasyConnect system can send direct messages to a Renault Pro+ dealer if a van is due a service.
Climb inside the Z.E. & the cabin is pretty much identical to any normal Master, except that there’s no gear lever as such, just a stubby gear stick on the dashboard which engaged Drive or Reverse as required. All models feature 2 cup holders on the centre console, height adjustable & lumbar adjustment for the drivers seat, an armrest, a height adjustable steering wheel, a two passenger bench seat & an overhead parcel shelf.
Outside, the van sits on 16″ steel wheels & comes with an unglazed left side door & rear door’s, plus electric, heated door mirrors. The rear load area offers a full steel bulkhead, 10 anchor points & there’s a spare wheel.
Standard equipment includes a DAB radio with Bluetooth & USB connectivity, an ECO mode function, a 12v power socket, plus the external side Z.E. charging socket, a pre-heating function a & ‘Z.E. Voice’ – a sound generator designed to warn pedestrians at low speeds. There’s also a Speed Limiter fitted allowing a top speed of 62mph only.
The Master Z.E. features the latest lithium-ion battery technology, with a 33kWh battery pack that’s been developed to improve energy density. The battery is mounted where the dCi-powered Master’s gearbox would be, forwards & below the load floor. This means that the Z.E. has the same access height as the Master dCi, while the load volume in the delivery van version is unchanged.
The Master Z.E. starts with a chime from the dashboard & a green ‘GO’ light in the middle of the speedometer. Put the van into drive from neutral & the Z.E. moves silently away. On a test route around Milton Keynes the Z.E. performed admirably. We were driving unladen & the Master handled really well as we took in a series of dual-carriageways & many, many roundabouts. Any van driver who use’s their vehicle for short deliveries will love the Z.E. No gear change make’s for relaxing driving & in town the Z.E. would be great to drive.
There’s plenty of torque between 30-50mph, although in ECO mode this is lacking. Cabin noise seems more noticeable than in the diesel Master, but that’s because there’s no diesel engine hum. Inevitably noise does enter the cabin & it’s from the tyres on the road & outside wind noise. With the radio on though, it’s not that intrusive.
Renault aren’t expecting a huge demand for the Master Z.E. & expect to sell all the Z.E.’s they can get in 2019. Partly this is because it’s expensive compared to a diesel Master, with our test model costing £58,000. Competition from an EV Ford Transit is coming, plus the Chinese built LDV EV80 is already here & this offers a claimed range that is higher than the Renault at 100 miles.
Whilst the Master Z.E. will only appeal to those driving short distances, most probably in urban areas or within an industrial area, or public sector location, such as a large NHS Trust, it is nonetheless fantastic to see another electric van enter the marketplace. Coupling a decent payload with a high battery range, was always going to be more difficult for CV’s than for passenger cars & so it has proved to be. This is the first take on a large EV van for Renault & as time passes & battery development moves on, range will inevitably improve. For now anyway, 50 Winter miles or 75 Summer miles is a good starting point.