In the early 1970’s I was both frightened & fascinated by a TV programme entitled UFO. It was a Gerry Anderson live action series based on a secret organisation called SHADO, defending earth against Aliens who were secretly visiting our planet. One of my neighbours at the time was lucky enough to have several of the Corgi models associated with the show, including Ed Straker, the head of SHADO’s car, which was bronze in colour & to my six year old eyes incredibly futuristic. I’m pretty sure that this car wasn’t electric, but in 2012, when I tested Nissans EV the Leaf, it did remind me an awful lot of the cars from UFO, which were strange to look at & weren’t anything like the average Triumph, Rover, Ford or Vauxhall circa 1971.
One could argue that with only 17,000 Renault EV’s sold around the world in 2012, Renault have been barking up the wrong tree with their huge investment in EV’s. However, if the need to get the EV market right is their priority, then Zoe is probably the car that will take them forward, as it is the first EV to actually look like a normal car. It’s also priced competitively, costing £13995 after the government grant has been taken off, plus the battery cost of £70 per month which is leased from Renault. Leasing the battery I hear you ask ? Yes, Renault believe that this is the best way to encourage customers to go for an EV. Battery leasing they say offers peace of mind as it comes with a lifetime guarantee. For example, if the battery power drops under 75% of original capacity, then Renault will replace or repair it free of charge. This in turn keeps you mobile & you only pay for what you use & furthermore allows you peace of mind when selling on your Zoe as the guarantee goes with the car.
For company car drivers there are also added bonus’s, with no road fund licence, zero congestion charge, zero BIK & 100% write down allowance in the first year of ownership. Add in the fact that Renault have worked out that fully charging the battery to offer a claimed capacity of 130 miles in the NEDC cycle, costs £3 to £3.30 & the savings are even greater. Be aware though, that on most days the range is around 100 miles & when it’s colder as low as 60 miles, although you can programme the cars air con system to get the cars interior to a set temperature while it’s still plugged into the mains, so range isn’t compromised on a cold day.
As with other EV’s, the Zoes impressive 220Nm allows acceleration to 30 mph in just 4 seconds. But, try to push it uphill or on a motorway & it lumbers towards 62 mph in 13.5 seconds & feels underpowered. Top speed is limited to 84 mph but I seriously doubt that you could get the Zoe to go that fast. The ride is a little fidgety particularly around bends when the Zoe really does lean into corners & with thin eco tyres it also clatters over our lovely pot holed roads. The steering is okay & not unlike any small car. At low speeds the friction braking takes some getting used to, causing the Zoe to slow too quickly meaning it takes much longer to re accelerate again. After 45 minutes in the Zoe, all of my initial observations still rang true, but I had got used to the Zoe & just like any other car with there own idiosyncrasies, I was happily tootling around. The added bonus of Renaults R Link in car infotainment tablet also helped my enjoyment of the car, allowing me to access SatNav, Bluetooth, my iPod as well as allowing the user to add Android Apps to it.
Should you buy one ? If you have access to a fast charging point at your place of work then yes, the Zoe would make an excellent company runaround. However, with home charging & range anxiety it is always most likely to appeal as a second or third car for short journeys & perhaps in the not to distant future, every home will run a small EV like the Zoe to do just that. Until then, Renault have upped the ante with the Zoe which to my mind is the most practical EV car I’ve yet driven, far too normal for Gerry Anderson anyway !