Published on June 17th, 2019 | by Maarten Vinkhuyzen0
Renault Zoe 50 — Finally Ready To Deliver On Its Promise
June 17th, 2019 by Maarten Vinkhuyzen
Two years ago I thought the long wait for the Renault-Nissan Alliance was over. There was a new Zoe40 launched just before the Chevy Bolt came to market, and a new Leaf coming that summer. Accompanied by a few other releases, I thought it was time to announce the Renault-Nissan Alliance was coming out of stealth mode. That was the meme of those days — EV makers coming out of stealth mode.
There appeared to be a little matter of batteries. The new Leaf did have only a 40kWh battery (yup, that was a mistake, admitted a Nissan manager in Geneva) and his Renault counterpart every two months made a pilgrimage to South Korea begging for more batteries. (My interpretation.)
Nissan is correcting the battery mistake with a 60kWh version, and the new factory in Poland can supply the Renault Zoe (hopefully) with enough batteries.
Perhaps nothing illustrates better the distance between the well informed and heavily biased EV community on sites like CleanTechnica and its colleagues compared to the best informed managers in the auto industry, those responsible for the EV market at Renault and Nissan. We knew that 60kWh was the minimum for a serious EV capable of competing with gas/diesel cars. It could be a little less for small and/or highly efficient models like the Zoe and Model 3, but an EPA rating well over 200 miles was the minimum. Tesla promised 220 miles for a base Model 3 and the Chevy Bolt was at 238 miles.
Renault-Nissan announced that the quest for more range was over, and the focus would be on lowering the price from now on. This was clearly too early. It had to be both. After this last range increase for Leaf and Zoe, the management can concentrate on getting the volumes higher and the prices lower. Then the Zoe can start to become not just the best selling small electric car in Europe, but much more.
With its WLTP range of 390km, equivalent to about 220 miles EPA, it can become what has been its potential for years. It can realize its promise to become the best selling car in the B-segment in Europe. We will do a “Total Cost of Ownership” comparison with a number of gas/diesel car competitors in the most important European markets when the prices are published this fall.
Now we have a restart of the small and midsize EV market. We have the new Zoe 50, LEAF 60, and the competition of the Peugeot e208, Opel e-Corsa, VW ID.3, the VW A-segment triplets (eUp!, eMii, eCitiGo), and should I mention the Smart brand going all-electric?
Today, Renault launched the revamped Zoe 50. Unlike the surprise of the Zoe40 nearly three years ago in Paris, it is not possible to order one tomorrow. Start of sales and production is planned for this autumn. The first deliveries are expected before the end of the year. With the existing order portfolio and planned plant shut-down for the yearly summer upgrade and maintenance, I don’t expect a big drop in sales / deliveries of the current model, the Zoe40.
This revamped Zoe 50 has more to offer than only a bigger battery and a more powerful motor. The exterior is updated with new LED lights, both front and back, some chrome accents, and turn signals sweep from the center outwards.
The interior has received the most attention of the designers. Some would say that it was needed. From an Eco perspective, the use of recycled plastics for the cloth used on the seats and dashboard is the most notable. While a competitor is transitioning from leather to vegan, this Renault is transitioning to 100% recycled for its seats.
Using a cloth texture for the dash instead of the ominous black plastic that was the standard for all the boring and non-luxury cars is a big improvement. With the still too high prices for electric mobility, a suggestion of luxury is mandated for electric vehicles.
There are more small, nice, luxury-like improvements in the interior. Induction charging for your cell phone, USB ports in the front and the back, LED interior illumination, a 10″oblong display behind the steering wheel with the normal readouts expected in that place, and a 9.3″ tablet sized touchscreen for infotainment and navigation functions. Apple CarPlay or Android Auto are welcome, Renault EASY LINK has real-time info on the status of charging stations. Climate control is managed by three easily accessible turn knobs on the center console below the touch screen. The windscreen is a soundproof system, lowering the driving noise from outside.
The normal driving assist features like lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, auto dim headlights, max speed recognition by camera and GPS, Auto-hold to prevent the creep of automatic-transition ICE cars, automatic emergency braking, hands-free parking (auto-steer), all-around 360 parking radar, and automatic parking brake are there. What is missing is traffic aware cruise control and traffic jam assist. These functions are part of the Pro*Pilot package that is deemed too luxurious for this class of vehicle.
As a compensation, in my experience, the Renault cruise control is the easiest normal cruise control I have encountered.
That leaves one, very important to many, new driving feature. The single-pedal driving plus the coast feature. In some driving environments, you want to be able to lift your feet from the accelerator without braking, in others you like the ease of accelerating and braking combined in one pedal. The Zoe 50 has two modes of driving, D and B. In the D mode it is just driving, in the B mode you have your single pedal driving. Switching between the two is easy with the “e-shifter” gear lever on the center console.
That is not all that has changed in Zoe driving. The Zoe 50 gets its number from the size of its battery (52kWh). Beside the previous R110 (hp) 80kW motor, there is the option for the R130 (hp) 100kW motor. Besides being quicker overall, it is optimized to be quick going from 80 km/h (50mph) to 120 km/h (75mph) in just 7.1 seconds. Okay, that is an eternity for Model 3 Performance drivers, but it is also 2 seconds less than the older R110 motor needs.
The max speed is limited at 140 km/h (87 mph), but in the old Zoe it was possible to put the cruise control at a higher speed. I hope that loophole is still in place. There are no doubt sound technological reasons for not pulling more energy from the battery, but 10% extra should be inside the safety margin from the designers. And 10% extra is just that tiny bit extra that makes driving really long distances a bit less boring.
On the other hand, driving that fast drains the battery also faster, and with only CCS 50 kW charging, you will be earlier at your destination when you drive a bit slower. For optimum in real-world driving, we need some testing and the Fastned charging profiles. We will be back with a discussion of those topics this fall.
Images by Jos Olijve, Frithjof OHM/Frithjof Ohm INCL. Pretzsch, and Renault Marketing 3DCommerce.