A performance version of the battery-powered Zoe is a real possibility — if range issues can be fixed
Steve Cropley Autocar
20 April 2016

Renault Sport is considering launching a high-performance version of the Renault Zoe battery-powered supermini after extracting “encouraging” performance from an initial prototype built last year.

The project became possible at the beginning of 2015 when the Zoe adopted a smaller, more sophisticated motor and an improved software package sourced from its own engine plants, having been launched and sold for its first two years with a set-up supplied by Continental.

No decision about a showroom Zoe RS has yet been taken because initial tests have shown the extra performance comes at the expense of a dramatic fall in driving range.  

Renault Sport boss Patrice Ratti confirmed both the progress of the project and its drawbacks.

“The performance and the way it is delivered are very promising,” he said, “and so is the handling, because all of the Renault Sport Clio chassis and steering parts we have developed will fit straight into a Zoe.

“The acceleration was good, especially from standstill. But we were amazed how much circuit driving affects a car’s battery endurance. If we drove our prototype flat out on a circuit, the battery would only last 13 or 14 minutes — not be enough to satisfy our customers.”

Despite this apparently terminal problem, the Zoe RS project has not been shelved.

If, “at some time in the future”, the standard Zoe’s 22kWh lithium ion battery capacity were to be boosted, the change could present Renault Sport with “a new opportunity”, said Ratti.

Renault won’t confirm the change, but the Zoe is indeed believed to be heading for a boost in battery capacity at the end of this year.

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Renault Zoe

Bespoke battery-powered supermini aims to advance the cause of electric cars at the mainstream end of the market

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The size and weight of its battery are unlikely to change.

The Zoe’s group stablemate, the battery-powered Nissan Leaf, is now offered with a 30kWh lithium ion battery, 25% greater in capacity than the original unit, which is still available.

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20 April 2016
It's not a lack of performance that's stopping people like me from buying the Zoe. It's the lack of range, inconvenience of daily charging and high depreciation. Adding more power simply provides the option of further reducing its range - what possible use is 13 or 14 minutes flat out cruising, on a car primarily intended as a local runabout? The only thing that might encourage more sales would be the option of a small range extender engine to permit the occasional long journey.

20 April 2016
The big issue the Zoe has is depreciation, and this is mostly to do with the battery lease. If you consider a car on the second hand market the monthly costs of finance / opportunity cost of payment decreases over time but the lease doesn't. Hence the purchase price is decreasing dramatically so the total monthly 'cost' (finance + battery lease) declines at a similar rate to other cars.

20 April 2016
If it's merely software, there could still be some value in a Tesla style insane mode for showing off the acceleration to your mates when you know you're only a couple of miles from home. Seems the lack of range is being improved on at the end of the year though, and if you have a charger at home the daily inconvenience of plugging a cable in seems like nothing compared to when you're running low on petrol and inevitably in a rush to get somewhere.

20 April 2016
Is that change an aluminium-air battery? Basically aluminium plates are consumed in a chemical reaction. To refuel you put new aluminium plates in. The consumed aluminium oxide is recycled. A smaller lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack is used for short journeys, the aluminium-air for longer ones. An electric-electric hybrid! A test vehicle was apparently getting up to 1000 miles before new plates. Renault were rumoured to be developing it further.

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