It was about time. Questions about electric cars were getting harder to answer. Answers began with Tesla and didn’t get very far. Yet, a Tesla that everyone could put on their buying list rather than their wish list was still somewhat far. Nissan Leaf had moved to the second generation but nowhere in sight outside of motor shows – yet. To cut it short, it was the perfect time for Renault’s electric car to enter the GCC market. It looked the part with a presence as cute and brief as its name was – Zoe. Well, what isn’t brief is the 300 km range actualized by the new battery developed with LG Chem for the Renault Zoe Long range. This Zoe could be well on its way to being the iconoclast it is meant to be.
Family traits are hard to hide – there were something about the Zoe that made me think of the Twizy, and something else that brought cousin Nissan Leaf to mind. The Zoe seems to be a lithe spirit and looks rather light too. Pardon the alligators, but Zoe is doe-eyed – look at the pointy face turned down with its bright and gleaming LED headlamps. An electric blue and plain white dominate the fleet on display. Nothing path-breaking, but innovation is under the hood, right? The hood is almost choked up with a motor and everything else that makes it work and transfer the power to the wheels.
Inside, futurism is marked by austerity, and a tablet-like touch screen at the centre as well as a long, narrow driver information screen behind the steering. As with other electric cars, you can visually appreciate how the energy is used, and recovered too! The vacant thuds of plastic account for the lightness felt about the dash, the door trims and the console. That is one way to counterbalance the weight of the battery. The space sacrificed in the rear legroom appears in the boot – so Zoe is a practical car as much as it is idealistic.
In the rear, under the Zoe badge there is another that reads Z.E. 40. (The initials are short for zero emissions.) Now, this is the telltale figure of capability. The 41 kWh battery can be fully charged in 2 hours at a 22 kW outlet (22 x 2 = 44) or in 7 hours if it is a 6 kW charging source. At its most convenient, charging it for half an hour promises 80 km of drive time – for many, that would be two day’s worth! The new Z.E. 40 battery in the ZOE Long Range model uses cutting-edge high-energy density lithium-ion technology and air circulation system that ensures consistent heating even in high temperature surroundings. Zoe gets charged at a Type 2 outlet, like the Tesla and unlike the Nissan. Currently, charging points are available at about a hundred destinations and there are as many in the pipeline, to borrow a metaphor from the ‘past’. Zoe does display some signs of French subtlety in its concealed placement of the rear doorknob and even the charging port under the front logo.
The distance between Jumeirah Golf Course and the Al Barari farm is under 25 km, almost all of which is through the E311 or Mohammad bin Zayed Road, where the speed limit is still a formidable 110 km, without accounting for any grace. Six lanes of heavy, fast cars can shake a car the size of the Zoe in their wake: but not Renault Zoe. And that – despite looking and feeling frail and flimsy. Blame it on the 400 kg battery that is laid on the base of most electric cars – giving them extra stability through a lower centre of gravity. The heavy battery accounts for the 1500 kg weight of the pintsized transporter.
The task ahead in the days to come will be to prove that there is hardly any difference between the car you have been used to and the idea of an electric car. The last thing electric car manufacturers want is to get people thinking they are gearing up to drive a miniature Enterprise.
As I turn the wheel of the Zoe and pull out of the parking lot, three things that chiefly set apart the electric car from the petrol car become evident soon enough. It is silent, except for the purposeful tires on road. It is torque-ready and in full swing from the word go! The connect between the steering and the road seems to minimal but it could be just the Zoe’s nature and nothing to do with its being electric. For that matter, that is becoming the norm these days, it is not even worth mentioning.
After some driving, the speedometer and the charge record tell me the same story – that 20 kilometers of the journey and from the charge has gone by. That is a relief to know that those figures are dependable. When I park the car, the glowing helix around the battery icon indicates that the charge is half way down and the remaining is good for 145 km. That is right. While the brochure promises 400 km on a full charge, the Zoe actually delivers 300, which is like… fantastic!
The essential Renault Zoe Long Range
I am content. The Renault Zoe is now ready to usher in ‘electric as a basic’ next to shelter – the battery even has a reassuring 4-year warranty. Except one little point, which is the AED 129,900 price tag. Now, that is way above what people used to basic are used to. However, Zoe is the harbinger of an age of pioneers and iconoclasts. People who will turn actual influencers with real-life altruistic tales for the pub, and real-life accounts of pure electric, zero-emission motoring! And they are charged up for the long journey, no matter what.
Supporting the electric movement:
Dubai Supreme Council of Energy has announced incentives for new EV buyers. Free charging for their vehicles at Dewa-approved stations until 2019 • Free designated green parking in Dubai • Exemption from electric vehicle registration & renewal fees and Salik’s tag fee • Special licence plate sticker