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by Tim Beissmann

The Renault Zoe looks set to give the electric vehicle world a shake-up when it hits the market later this year.

Unveiled in production form for the first time at the 2012 Geneva motor show, the Zoe promises unprecedented range and recharging practicality, as well as a price similar to a conventional internal combustion engined hatchback.

The 65kW/220Nm Renault Zoe has a range of 210km under the official European standards, putting it 50km clear of the majority of mass-produced electric vehicles currently available. Renault says this translates to a real-world range of 100km in icy conditions and 150km in more mild weather. It features an Eco mode that optimises range by adjusting the performance of the motor and climate control.

The Zoe is also the first electric vehicle that can be charged at any power level up to 43kW thanks to its integrated Chameleon charger. Charging takes between 30 minutes and nine hours, with a 22kW fast charge completed in about one hour.

Already available to pre-order online, the five-door Zoe will hit the road in Europe in the third quarter of 2012. Prices range from 15,700 to 17,500 euros ($19,500 to $21,800) in France – comparative to the price of a similar-sized Renault Clio.

The initial outlay is kept relatively low because customers will lease the vehicles’ batteries rather than buy them outright. The batteries will cost 79 euros ($98) per month on a 12,500km per year/36-month agreement, translating to a additional expense of 2844 euros ($3500) over the first three years of ownership.

The Zoe features the ‘Z.E. Voice’ pedestrian safety system, allowing drivers to select from three distinct sounds – Pure, Glam and Sport – to warn people of the car’s approach, which is otherwise near silent.

Another first for the Zoe is Renault’s R-Link multimedia system, which combines a seven-inch touchscreen with voice recognition, TomTom live satellite navigation, EV driving guidance, smartphone integration and access to R-Link Store applications.

The My Z.E. Connect Pack also gives drivers remote access to range-related data via smartphone or computer.

Renault Australia remains committed to introducing EVs to our market, and will start its movement this year with the launch of the Fluence Z.E. small sedan.

While it has no firm plans to add the Zoe to its line-up in the near future, Renault Australia continues to investigate the light electric car for our market.




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