Battery prototype proves Renault’s EV breed has a bright, if pricey, future

What is it?

It’s a battery-powered Renault – a prototype, in fact, for the first of four all-electric models from the French company that will be coming to the market in the next three years.

It’s called the Kangoo Be Bop ZE, and the car it prefigures will be the Renault Kangoo Express, a small battery-powered van due to launch in early 2011, which will be among the first mass-produced electric cars in the world, if Renault has its way.

And here’s the important part: this car’s 60bhp, lithium ion electric powertrain will serve, sometimes in a slightly different tune, to power all four of La Regie’s new zero emissions breed. If this powertrain is good, therefore, it could change the way mass-produced cars are powered forever.

What’s it like?

Quite ordinary in almost every way but in the noise it makes.

Which, coincidentally, is exactly how Renault wants it.

The Kangoo Be Bop ZE accelerates to 62mph in around 13sec, hits 81mph flat out, and has a 62-mile range, but the last figure in that list should increase to about 100 miles before it hits showrooms. Renault says it should go far enough between charges to satisfy the daily requirements of 90 per cent of European drivers.

If you want to go further, you either have to find a three-phase high-speed charging station, which will restore your range in between 20 and 30 minutes, or go to a ‘quickdrop’ station to swap your depleted battery for a fresh one. That process should take just three minutes, says Renault, and also assures us that, come 2011, the network of both ‘charging stations’ and ‘quickdrop centres’ will be fully developed in the UK.

There’s a discreet beep when you turn the ignition key in this car, but nothing else tells you it’s running. Move the gearlever down to D – there’s no gearbox as such, just a reducer gear on the 13,000rpm electric motor. Now prod the accelerator though, and you’ll move away up the road more briskly than you might expect.

The high-torque-at-low-rpm characteristic of the electric motor means the electric Kangoo’s quite an urgent performer up to about 45mph. Thereafter it progresses towards its top speed increasingly slowly; this car is much better suited to urban running than motorway work then. It goes like a big diesel around town and a small petrol on multilaners.

Quietness is what dominates this car’s driving experience. It must be twice as refined from a mechanical perspective as a petrol-driven equivalent, probably three times as quiet as a diesel, and there’s also less noticeable noise from the chassis than you’d guess. But it goes about its business with a distant, quietly intriguing turbine whine that’s unlike any noise a combustion engine ever made; it certainly sounds fruitier than a milk float’s hum.

Each of Renault’s four forthcoming electric models will have its own handling manners, but this Kangoo proves that they shouldn’t necessarily feel slow or heavy-laden, despite having 250kg of batteries on board. The car steers, rides and corners just like any other small Renault – and that’s more than acceptably well; it’s even reasonably entertaining to zip around town in.

Should I buy one?

Well, probably not this very one, but the electric Kangoo certainly reflects pretty well on the three all-electric passenger cars that are coming to a showroom near you. Using this powertrain, you can imagine that Renault’s battery-powered supermini and it’s two-seater urban runabout will be about as compelling and complete car small cars get.

Here’s the snag: they will also be quite expensive. Renault is aiming for prices commensurate with like-for-like mid-range diesel models, but that’s taking into account government subsidies on electric cars that, in the UK, could run to £5000. The city car, then, is unlikely to be available for less than £10,000; the supermini’s likely to cost £16k, and the Prius-sized saloon a little over £20k. Which is fine, provided the UK government’s promise of cash incentives on electric cars isn’t just pre-election bluster.

There will also be the additional cost of leasing the batteries; you didn’t expect your electric Renault to have batteries included, did you? That’s estimated to be between £100 and £200 a month. So you’ll need to do a good 10,000 miles a year in order for one of these cars to make financial sense. Which may prove challenging at first in a car capable of only 100 miles between charges, and with a still-developing charging network.

Zero emissions motoring for the masses is now within touching distance, it seems - and on this evidence, it’s something to look forward to.

Matt Saunders

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Comments
12

3 July 2009

Firstly in the facts and figures section you put the CO2 rating as Zero. Its not! CO2 is produced when the electricity is made, so the figure is not zero!!!

"Quite ordinary in almost every way but in the noise it makes.

Which, coincidentally, is exactly how Renault wants it."

Yes and no. To drive, yes. To run, no. There will need to be a significant mentality change if electric cars are to be accepted, especially in the wallet department. In the article you state that you will need to do 10,000 miles plus to make it economically viable. Have you ever tried to do 10,000 miles around town / short journey per year (not being either a van or delivery driver), which is where this realistically this car will have to be used? Its quite difficult.

I still personally think electric vehicles aren't the way to go, not for the foreseeable future at least. The cost and compromise is still too much to stomach for the general public.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

3 July 2009

[quote TegTypeR]Firstly in the facts and figures section you put the CO2 rating as Zero. Its not! CO2 is produced when the electricity is made, so the figure is not zero!!![/quote]

We've done all this before Teg. Compared on a like for like basis, the CO2 is zero. Otherwise all cars ratings would be a darn sight lower if you take into account emissions from the production of petrol.

3 July 2009

[quote memyselfandi]

We've done all this before Teg. Compared on a like for like basis, the CO2 is zero. Otherwise all cars ratings would be a darn sight lower if you take into account emissions from the production of petrol.

[/quote]

Emissions would be a dam sight higher.... I know what you mean, and agreed.

However, we should consider electricity as exactly what it is, a fuel source. I am not talking about the CO2 expended in the infra structure (although in both electricity and petrol production, it is a relevant as the final figure from the exhaust of a car), how about just showing a fixed CO2 figure derived from the output of the raw material used to create the electricity in a worse case scenario - for instance coal.

We can't just ignore the fact that even electric vehicles produce pollution.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

3 July 2009

[quote TegTypeR]We can't just ignore the fact that even electric vehicles produce pollution.[/quote]

Agreed, but how can a fair comparison be done?

3 July 2009

[quote memyselfandi]Agreed, but how can a fair comparison be done?
[/quote]

Someone (usually I would suggest the government but I don't think they would give us a fair true figure, even if they could organise to do the study properly without costing the tax payer several billions of pounds! (phew, rant over!)), should calculate an average or worse case figure for electricity generation in the UK.

The manufacturers, magazines and anyone else who wished to quote a figure, could use this as a base line from which we all work. Then at least we could be properly informed.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

3 July 2009

According to the Gov, electricity production produces 800-1,000g CO2 per kWh during the burning stage.

So if someone can find out how many kilowatts per km the car needs, I'm sure we can can do the maths!

3 July 2009

[quote March1]electricity production produces 800-1,000g CO2 per kWh during the burning stage[/quote]

Nowhere in the link you provide does it actually SAY that current UK Carbon production is 800-1000g per kWh. Only for Coal burning. The UK is about 18% nuclear (very, very low carbon on a life cycle analysis), about 5% renewable (HEP, Wind etc - low carbon), about 50-60% Gas (~500-600g of CO2) and only ~17-27% coal. If I had time I'd search through the 2006 Green paper or any of the figures released by Department of Trade and Industry.

Oh and then you'll need to factor in transmission losses of ~5% and also inverting/transforming losses of about another ~5%.

Teg - while you are right that an electric car does not produce CO2 at source, but does at a power plant. However, imagine now a large scale shift towards Renewable/Nuclear. Suddenly Hydrogen and electric cars become even "cleaner" than they are already. Most EV manufacturers seem to claim about 30g CO2 per km for their vehicles. If we built say 20 more nuclear reactors then you'd reduce that down to about 17-20g per km. We have the technology and the know-how to reduce electricity production emissions - clean coal, CCGT, Wind, Tidal, Wave etc. Reducing transport emissions by a meaningful amount is much harder right now - by moving towards a fuel that is produced by our electricity grid - which will (hopefully) come from a low carbon source - then we reduce our overall footprint - even if it requires an increase in demand.

Interestingly - take a look at the figures for primary energy demand and carbon emissions from the three main sectors - residential, transport and industry. Industry have improved their efficiency without comparison. Despite cars being more efficient now than ever our primary energy demand stays stable - more cars, driving more miles. Yet if you break down the energy demand you find that efficiency gains are far greater for haulage etc than personal use - a company will buy the most efficient vehicle, a personal buyer may make a decision to buy the fastest, or petrol rather than diesel etc. Finally residential energy demand is actually rising - despite better insulated houses etc.

6 July 2009

[quote Autocar]

What is it?


It’s a battery-powered Renault – a prototype, in fact, for the first of four all-electric models from the French company that will be coming to the market in the next three years

[/quote]

Editorial note to Matt: "It's" is contraction for "It is". "Its" is the possessive case for "It".

It 's used correctly the first time in your article but its last use is incorrect.

6 July 2009

[quote TegTypeR]Have you ever tried to do 10,000 miles around town / short journey per year (not being either a van or delivery driver), which is where this realistically this car will have to be used? Its quite difficult.[/quote]

Did you spot in the article where it says:

It’s called the Kangoo Be Bop ZE, and the car it prefigures will be the Renault Kangoo Express, a small battery-powered van

I'm guessing a small battery powered van is something likely to be driven by van and delivery drivers, so the mileage probably isn't a concern. And as a means of helping to eliminate the unpleasant and unhealthy traffic pollution concentrated in city centres, I think it's a van/technology to be applauded, not subject to the usual fear of change "it'll never work" scepticism. I can't think of a more suited purpose for EV technology than van deliveries around city centres - relatively short journeys; relatively low engine loads; relatively long periods standing stationary; lots of stop start.

It's a technology that I believe has worked for the dairies for quite some time now ;-)

12 July 2009

Is this a joke?

1) It's ugly

2) How are you supposed to go up the M1 if the top speed is 81mph (even if it's electric)

3)Once you've driven 100 miles then you've got to wait ages to charge it again - there are not many of these speed charging stations. And this 3 minute quickstop charge in 2011 - might not even be there by then.

I don't want one of these...

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