REVIEW: Renault Zoe Z.E. 50

by Seán Creedon

When the electric Renault Zoe was launched three years ago Paddy Magee, the MD of Renault in Ireland had a good idea to try and encourage motorists to at least think about an electric car.

Paddy suggested that when people leave their regular petrol or diesel cars into their local garage to be serviced, they should be given an electric vehicle as a courtesy car for a few hours.

That seemed a reasonable suggestion as ‘range anxiety’ wouldn’t bother drivers of petrol or diesel cars for half a day. But I don’t think the idea really took off.

Range Anxiety and slow charging points. They seem to be the two major bugbears for motorists who are thinking about buying an electric car.

However, with the Green Party now in Government hopefully we will see a push for more charging points for electric vehicles around the country.

It’s no secret that what happens in England, usually follows here. Next month England’s first electric vehicle forecourt is due to open.

Located near Braintree in Essex, Gridserve’s EV forecourt will be the first of over 100 sites to be built in the next five years, as part of a one billion pound programme.

Thirty electric vehicles can be charged simultaneously with high power chargers, enabling drivers to add around 320km of range in 20 minutes.

Last week I got to drive the second version of the Zoe EV. There are minor changes to the exterior while the cabin has got a makeover and looks very smart now.

The Zoe now has larger capacity 41kW/h battery pack and a new power saving heat exchanger. With a full charge you should be able to travel 360km without stopping to take on more energy.

It was a beautiful sunny Monday morning when I picked up the Zoe from the Automotive Team in Sandyford and I was heading right across the city on the M50 to Beaumont.

The range showed 360 kilometres when I left Sandyford and thanks to some ‘cagey’ driving I still had 360 kilometres available by the time I arrived in Beaumont. Once you take your foot off the accelerator the battery is recharged thanks to regenerative braking.

Over the following days I got to really enjoy the car. The battery managed to hold the charge very well, but when I did have to charge the battery the public charge point was slow, around 100km after a hour charging.

That was at ESB public charge point, but if you are thinking of buying an electric car you would need to get a home charger.

The Zoe is a very neat and can, as the old only saying goes, turn on sixpence. There is room for four people, five at a squeeze, but space is a bit tight in the back.

Naturally the boot is fairly small and no spare wheel.

I have driven white and black versions of the Zoe in the past; this time round my test car came in an attractive Celadon blue colour. I have seen taxi drivers use electric Nissan Leafs, but maybe the Zoe would be too small for taxi drivers.

Prices start at €29,990, but the price of my test car, which came with some extras, was €35,015. Road tax is only €120. Overall I had no complaints except waiting around for the battery to be charged.