Charging Ahead with the Renault Zoe


Zoe charging 1

The Renault Zoe electric car has been highly anticipated as a game changer in the electric vehicle industry. So when it arrived on Northern Ireland’s shores, I was excited to have the opportunity to be one of the first people to drive it. The purpose of my test-drive was to test how the Zoe would operate with the ecar charge points in Northern Ireland. I was very intrigued to see if the car would charge up ok, how long it would take to charge up and how far I could travel in a full charge.

When I picked up the vehicle there was about 50% range left on the battery, therefore I drove it to the ecar standard charge point in Adelaide Street, behind Belfast City Hall. This charge point is a 22kW AC charge point. There are 320 of these charge points located across NI. I had been informed that it would take approx 1 hour to charge a Zoe to 100% on all of these 22kW AC charge points.

I flipped open the charge point flap which is carefully integrated under the Renault logo at the front of the car. I took the charging lead out of spacious boot and plugged it into the Zoe. Using an ecar access card supplied by the ecar project, I swiped the card over the screen on the charge point and it invited me to plug the cable into the car. I watched and waited as the charging crept up on the dashboard. Within a half an hour Zoe was fully charged.

Over the next few days I drove to a variety of ecar charge point locations. On a number of occasions I was merely using these charge points as an opportunity charge to take me from 80% up to 100%, which took 10 – 15 minutes.

The 1 hour to 100% charging time is one of the Zoe’s best features for the Northern Ireland market. It is also capable of rapid charging on a Combo charge point (44kW AC) in 30 minutes. The ecar Project will be replacing 5 of the existing rapid charge points with these new Combo chargers at the end of this year.

The range of the vehicle is dependent, as with all electric vehicles, on how you drive the car. The brochure says that the NEDC range is up to 121 miles. When I picked up the vehicle, the maximum range was 75 miles fully charged. However, when I handed the vehicle back a couple of days later the range had increased to 83 miles fully charged. The range will increase or decrease with your driving style. The patented regenerative braking capability of the Zoe is very advanced, and can be optimised to extend the range. Another clever ‘Eco’ button feature helps increase the range bymoderating air-conditioning or heating power, and limits the vehicle to 60mph, which is easily switched off if required. The Zoe dashboard cleverly shows when the energy is being drawn from the battery with blue arrows, and when energy is going back into the battery with green arrows.

These dynamic arrows are addictive, and I found myself trying to get more green arrows rather than blue arrows! For example, I drove the vehicle from Belfast along the Hillhall Road towards the Motorway, a journey of approx 9 miles. However, due to the regenerative braking capability up and down the hills, I had only actually used 2 miles of battery.

I would have no doubt if I had the Zoe for another few days I would have increased the range to over 100 miles. However, as 22kW charge points are located approx 10 miles apart, range anxiety will never be an issue with the Zoe. You can drive anywhere in Northern Ireland and you will never be far away from an opportunity charge. Most ecar charge points are conveniently located within towns or tourist destinations, so there are plenty of things to do while you top up. For more information see the charge point map. The Zoe has an affordable price of £13,345 - £15,195, plus monthly battery leasing. It has a fast charging times and a very modern appearance. The intelligent touch-screen R-link navigation and multi-media system, blue LED exterior lights and ultramodern interior are very charming. 

A light ‘spaceship’ safety noise has been added to the car when travelling at low speeds to ensure pedestrians are aware of it. It has also of course, the big selling points for many, zero carbon emissions and an 80 – 90% reduction in running costs. 

Overall, the Zoe was very intuitive and user friendly, with lots of clever features. The Zoe has found a great home in Northern Ireland. Right now, it is one of the best places in the world to drive electric.

For Zoe test-drives in Northern Ireland, contact your nearest Renault ZE dealer.

Following on from the Renault Zoe, the new Nissan Leaf has just been released on the NI market to be followed by the BMWi3 later this year. The ecar team look forward totest-driving and test-charging these vehicles in Northern Ireland very soon.

Check back regularly for more updates on our experiences with new electric vehicles.

Irene Breen, ecar Project Manager

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