2020 Renault Zoe Test Drive and electric car related insights
If you have been following articles I've written lately, you will realize electric vehicles are something that really excite me. While other regions are way ahead of the Middle East, and with its challenges, this region aims to double the efforts to catch up with the trend. In this article, we will go through the most notable changes of the New Renault Zoe, Renault Global Electric Strategy and what do we need, as an industry, to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles. Without a fixed date, the Zoe will land into the Middle East early next year at a similar price point to the current model. Hence, and just to give you a hint of my first impressions, you as a car buyer, will get more for the same amount of money. More range, more features, and better quality. That being said and as we revealed with our first-ever electric vehicle report, EVs are still very expensive.
Before getting into the details of the New Renault Zoe; let me give you a bit of background to learn about Renault's commitment towards electrification. Their strategy started 12 years ago, back in 2007 when electric vehicles were not part of any car related discussion whatsoever; at least here in the Middle East. Their aim was to contribute to climate change while increasing car sales. Since then Renault has invested more than 4 Billion Dollars and more than 30,000 people were involved. Following the facts and since 2007, they have sold more than 250,000 electric vehicles becoming the #1 brand in Europe. By 2022 Renault Global stated that 50% of their range will be electric or hybrid. Within EVs, they will be introducing new models plus restyling older models which will generate 10% of the group’s sales.
Now, getting into the details of the New 2020 Renault Zoe. This one launched is the third generation since its inception. Born in 2012 (which we did not get in the Middle East) and with only 150 kilometers of range, the best-selling electric car for Renault grew up, and 7 years after that it became a lot, lot, lot more interesting. We did get the second-generation Zoe which Zaran test drove (and you can read about here) back in the days and joined the Global Electric Vehicle Road Trip. With more than 160,000 customers across 50 countries and with 60 awards under the hood, the Zoe 4.0 gives way to the 2020 Zoe Neo. While it does not look like a completely new car, it is a new car.
During the press conference, Renault pitched 3 key messages. The new Zoe has a better design, more range, and more tech. I was, "Yeah, sure... this is the typical press conference pitch. Let us see how accurate those statements are" The reality is, all of them are true. However, they did overlook a fourth one which I believe is equally important. While they have mentioned it, they did not highlight it. I am talking about quality. Inside the Renault Zoe’s cabin, you will find elements that bring affordable quality to the next level. Do you want to know what that is? Well, you need to keep reading this article.
So, as a recap in case you got lost with so much info, through this article we will tackle the design, the range, the tech, and quality enhancements.
The New Zoe does not come with major design changes. These are subtle tweaks that most probably you as a regular car buyer will not be able to identify at first sight. However, these enhancements make the car a lot more refined. If you are into design you will know that if your starting point is already good, no need to change a lot; just putting the right elements in place will give you a more interesting product. What I particularly like about the Zoe is the fact that it looks like a car. Period. While other manufacturers forced the design to speak to a futuristic and weird cause just because it is an electric vehicle, Renault is focused on building a nice cute hatchback.
The changes we see are within the front grille with new full-LED headlights following the new brand language with a c-shape, new bumper with fog lights and chrome details below. Also, the bonnet adds a new shape that is more muscular and gives the Zoe a more interesting presence on the road. The dimension overall hasn't changed and at the rear, we also see new LED lights with a dynamic indicator.
The older Zoe with only 150 kilometers of range is something from the past. This new 2020-year model comes equipped with a 52-kW battery that produces 135 horsepower with 245 NM of torque. This combination gives this electric car a range, as per official figures and optimal driving conditions, of 395 kilometers. Being realistic, most probably you will be able to get around 340 kilometers of range.
Since we are talking about the battery, it is worth highlighting, how long it will take you to charge it. The new Zoe adds the DC terminal to the existing AC one. In basic English, the AC charges slower than the DC since the power goes first to an onboard charger that feeds the battery; whereas the DC charges the battery straight away. This last one is known as fast charging.
If you are charging the Zoe at home (7KW), it will take a full night/8 hours to get a complete charge. If you have access to a public station with 11 kw you can get up to 120 kilometers of range within 2 hours. With a 22-kW charging station you will get the same range but in half the time. Lastly, if you go to a fast-charging station that delivers 50 kW in half an hour you will get almost half of the full range of the car (150 kilometers).
In addition, and this will give way to our next topic -tech- the 2020 Renault Zoe comes with a new driving option and it is called "B". When this mode is activated the car decelerates faster as soon as you release the accelerator pedal. Making almost useless the brake pedal, the car will regenerate more energy and give it back to the battery to extend its range. This technology is also seen in the Chevrolet Bolt that Zaran tested earlier and you can read about here.
This new version comes with new technology you will be able to use while driving the car. For instance, the Zoe features an automatic parking brake, wireless charging, LED ceiling light, 2 rear USB ports, recognition of traffic signals, blind-spot warning, auto-hold, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, front, rear and side parking radars with camera, and hands-free parking.
When it comes to the infotainment, it has a 9.3 inches vertical multimedia touch screen that you will be able to control all major functionalities of the car and connect it with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. This adds to the 10 inches driver display that contains main driver aids and car settings.
Last but not by any means least, I feel the new Zoe took the quality game to the next level. I genuinely felt the quality of the materials used inside was coming from a different and more expensive segment. This is all thanks to the recycled materials Renault used to build it that replaces most of the hard plastics. To give you an example, this is something we just saw on the Volvo XC40 Zaran drove a couple of weeks ago and you can see here. These materials come from fabric scraps, seat belts, and plastic bottle fibers. The combination with soft plastics and these materials will give you the feeling you are driving almost a luxury car.
In this regard, I asked them the question if this was more expensive to produce and install on the vehicles. The answer was "No". Hence, this is a heads up for all automotive manufacturers to start introducing these materials instead of hard plastics since it is eco-friendly, enhances the quality perception and does not increase the costs.
So, there you have it. That is my take of the new Renault Zoe will receive in the Middle East by early 2020. This EV is living proof that Electric Vehicles are getting better and better in terms of product, services, quality, features, and design. This third-generation proves that, and if you test drive it you will be on my side. Now, what do we need to do for electric vehicles to be a success in this region? My inputs coming from the electric vehicle report (which you can read about here) below:
1 - Awareness. Car buyers are clueless about the true potential of an electric vehicle. The report revealed that perceptions change when people driving or owning an EV. All stakeholders need to come together to put car buyers behind the steering wheel and experience electric vehicles. They are good, full of tech and very fun to drive. The media especially need to put a lot more of attention on this topic since they have the car buyer reach and the tools to educate and inform to build a more sustainable future.
2 - Choice. Which is related to trust. Car buyers will start "trusting" electric vehicles when they see them on the road. For this to happen, manufacturers need to start bringing more EVs to the region. So far, the current offering speaks to a certain niche instead to the masses, and with this approach might take decades to develop the electric transportation ecosystem. I feel Chinese manufacturers will play a major role here since they are known as "the affordable option" in the market. Choice, however, is mapped with the below two points as well.
3 - Price. Currently, EVs are very expensive to own. For instance, the Renault Zoe will be on sale for around AED 140,000 and you can get a petrol-powered car with similar power, quality, and features for approximately AED 50,000. In all other markets, the public sector gives subsidies of up to USD 10,000 (AED 36,700) to encourage car buyers to jump into electrification. Something like this will eventually bring the Zoe to a price point around the AED 100,000 mark and while it will continue to be more expensive, in five years ownership could make sense. I did also share this trip with some Korean colleagues that mentioned nowadays the public sector is taking back those benefits. They were made to empower car buyers to adopt EVs quicker. And then you know how this goes when the ball starts rolling, right?
4 - Setting up charging stations in buildings. While the UAE has one of the best ratios when it comes to charging stations per electric vehicle, we still need to figure out how we are going to charge them at home. Not to mention, how we will charge the EVs in the region to generate an attractive sales volume. For instance, if you live in a building there is no way you will be able to charge an EV unless you are lucky enough and your parking slot is next to a wall socket. And in that case, who will be paying for that electricity consumption? Eventually, buildings need to build charging stations with the right grid that can read the VIN number that will be also mapped to your apartment DEWA bill. Now, if you live in a villa, which most likely you are renting, will you or your landlord invest in a charging station? If you don't then, you will need to plug it on the regular socket and will take up to 8 hours to charge. Which eventually cars usually stay at home for that period. However, you will not be able to get the free charging benefit since it only applies to public charging stations.
To some extent, the adoption of EVs in the region is rolling and the UAE is leading its way. It is not an easy task and we have tons of challenges to overcome while things move forward.