Zoe is not only happily living in the middle of Renault's current EV range; it is a veteran when it comes to production emissions-free cars, and is on top, according to sales figures.

Those who need a light van will buy the Kangoo Z.E. (more about it in the next issue of Plugin Magazine) and if you want to roam the narrow streets of city centers and drive short distances, there is the Twizy. There used to be a bigger family sedan on sale, the Fluence Z.E., but the concept of replaceable batteries did not take off, and it did not survive beyond its first incarnation. Well, it found its second life on non-European markets, like the Samsung SM3 Z.E. did, in Asia.

It therefore seems that the Zoe is just big enough, just nimble and useful enough to have a bright future. Renault Zoe was displayed in 2012 at the Geneva Auto Show, although the head of the Renault-Nissan Group, Carlos Ghosn, announced four electric cars back in January 2008, at a forum in Davos. The main attraction was supposed to be the X10, a small car, designed on an empty sheet of paper (or a blank screen, if you will) that would change the image of the European metropolis. That was, naturally, the Zoe, a secret project only whispered about at the time. In 2015, it has yet to make an impact, however, it has all the trump cards to do so in the years to come, when batteries become more durable and charging stations more numerous.

With an easy conscience, it can be said that the designer, Jean Sémériva, did an excellent job under the watchful eye of head of Renault design, Laurens Van Den Acker. The front of the car, brandishing a big Renault logo that hides the socket for battery charging, is truly dynamic, and the rear lights are tinged blue until the brake pedal is pressed, or the lights and rear fog lamps are turned on. Rear door handles give a special Sémériva touch, as they are hidden in the C pillar bar, although they are not exactly handy, as they have to be first pushed inwards and then pulled. The interior is bright, reminiscent of a space ship, yet not gaudy. The central implies. But more about that, once it has been tested.

Zoe has two driving modes, normal and ECO. The electric engine has less power in ECO mode, the maximum speed only 90 km/h, and the electronics influence the air conditioning (Zoe has a heat pump that is three times more effective than classic heating). We thus save up to 10% of our energy without having to give up radio, navigation, the hands-free telephone system, power windows, etc. Zoe is, regardless of the driving mode, a comfortable car that can easily host four passengers, provided that those in the back seats are not too demanding.

The engine theoretically ensures only 65 kW (88 hp), yet it has a generous torque of 220 Nm. Although the final speed exceeds the limits of most European countries, the acceleration thrills: did you know that it takes Zoe only 4 seconds to get from 0 to 50 km/h? There is no fear of your Zoe causing a bumper to bumper backup...

Alongside the LCD gauges, the application that helps to monitor charging via mobile phone must be mentioned. This application also advises on the use of nearby charging stations on long distance drives, and operates the air conditioning while the car is charging, which means that the car is fully-charged and appropriately heated or cooled when the driver gets in. Zoe can be charged at home or, even faster, at rapid charging stations (43 kW, alternating current). There is also no need to worry about the battery: with a monthly lease, Renault binds itself to replace the battery, once its capacity falls under 75% of the original charging capacity, or if a more efficient battery enters the market. Once the battery is dead, it will be recycled. The English market even offers the possibility to buy the car and the battery, in which case the price is appropriately higher, yet reduces the costs of the lease.

The happy medium is not always a compromise that works for everyone. But the Renault Zoe is a clear example of an electrical town car that is efficient, environmentally-friendly and also very satisfying.

Nov. 4, 2015 Driving photo: Nejc Wenzelberger

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