When switching on a pure electric car, the first thing any sensible driver will do is check the remaining estimated battery range. The figure displayed is often likely to create varying degrees of anxiety and/or trigger some mental arithmetic. But Renault’s message is all about confidence as it launches the latest hatchback 4-seat, 5-door Zoe R90 supermini EV.
Featuring a new LG Chem lithium-ion battery that delivers significantly greater energy density than used previously, the new R90 electric is expected to deliver just over 400 km (249 mi) on the NEDC (New European Driving Cycle), with an ‘honest figure’ of 300 km (186 mi) and a "worst case winter" range (with lights, heater and wipers on full blast) of 200 km (124 mi).
[Editor's Note—The following information was updated 27 April 2017: The original article stated the Zoe EV's range topped that of the Tesla Model S and Chevrolet Bolt, but did not mention the Opel Ampera-e (a European-market Bolt). Ampera-e's range is 520 km (323 mi) as officially certified on the NEDC. That makes Ampera-e the current non-luxury EV range champ, followed by the Zoe EV.] The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV carries an EPA rating of 238 mi (383 km) and Bolt owners in southern California have squeezed over 300 mi (483 km) range on a single charge.
LG Chem's new Z.E.40 battery delivers a claimed 41 kW·h. Assembled at Renault’s Flins, France facility, the Z.E. 40 pack has 192 cells and 12 modules. The increase in output to 41 kW·h—claimed as the highest energy density EV battery currently in production—was achieved through revised chemistry and adding “active materials,” state company engineers.
Renault has applied for 95 patents on the Zoe traction motor, which is rated at 220 N·m and 68 kW. The car is claimed to accelerate to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 13.5 s and can reach a top speed of 135 km/h (84 mph). Curb weight is 1468 kg (3236 lb). On the road, the car's power feels adequate, as judged by the author in a test drive, but it does not have the snappy tip-in that some EVs provide.
The Zoe is fitted with a heat pump as standard, which uses about three times less energy than a regular HVAC system for an equivalent level of heating, claims Renault. The car has an Eco mode said to enhance range by around 10%.
Renault derives its road EV technology from the company’s involvement in e-motorsport. The e-dams team, highly successful in the FIA Formula E Championship, is managed by four times F1 World Champion Alain Prost and e-dams founder, Jean-Paul Driot.
The test program for the Zoe includes experiencing -20°C in Sweden to check battery performance. The car was also driven through 40 cm (16 in) of water at 10 km/h (6.2 mph), totally immersing the battery.